The Stormshend letters refers to a group of letters to the church written by Sir Ferenold Stormshend and the controversy surrounding them. They sparked much philosophical debate, and also led to a re-eludication of the theory of forms which the church has held dear for so long. The primary similarity in all of the letters was a disdain for universalism as well as divine philosophy.
But a day ago, I was tasked with the admirable task of delivering a lecture by the church upon the matter of sacred philosophy. I ‘twas, and still am, a mere parishioner, and for the opportunity to teach and spread the good word, I was delighted, for the potential to inspire and ignite with inspiration, I ‘twas humbled. And as all gentlemanly professors shall do, my first order of business was indeed to set upon reading the course which I was to teach: Sacred Philosophy.
Ah, yet I am no philosopher myself. I am indeed familiar with much philosophy, and some of it indeed is noble, tending to lift the spirit out of weariness, to purify it from defilement. I speak, of course, ofo philosophers such as Sir Ardwin Cromwell, whom spoke of the boundless elegance to be found in the Light, and the crime one visits to life itself by not acting upon with full vigor.
And yet, as I read through that sacred philosophy, It likened itself little to many of the other teachings-…indeed, it could even be said that sacred philosophy was diametrically opposed to most of the Light’s teachings. Of course, as a mere parishioner, I thought naught’ it my goal to question the orthodoxy of the church, yet so repulsed am I by the words that sprung from my tongue that down’trodden eve in Westfall, that I have found myself sitting here, alone, in solitude,composing this spontaneous outflow of emotion.
Is that not what the Light is, as well? Virtue, compassion and unconditional love, bearing the same seed of divinity throughout the seasons of one’s life; is that not what Faol himself taught? For Faol hath indeed spoken much of virtue, and he hath spoken much of emotion, as well. He, above all others, preached to the common man, and the words he writ and the lines he wove by divine inspiration inspired endless men to perform the good: the essential active service one can do for the Light.
Hence, I prudently ask upon this day, where had reason come into this play? For I am told people seek knowledge, that they have an unbridled lust to seek ever more information to digest, as if that will grant them any more understanding, as if that will grant them any more happiness. Is it not the gnomes whom are the masters of knowledge,yet they are also the race most rare to visit the church, the race most rare to embrace the holy and the sacred, to integrate the ever-lasting spirit into their own lives.
For reason is the word used to describe the one and only tool of “Sacred” philosophy, and so it is reasont hat must be examined, as reason by its very nature encourages us to examine. And so we ask: What hath reason wrought? What beauties, what lies, what ignomious proclamations hath been birthed from reason’s womb?
Naught has come of reason except woe and corruption. Our spirits have been born immortal, from the starry heavens, to be placed in earthly bodies, where we may perhaps touch our heavenly roots through realization that the sacred, as Faol says: Dwells within us, around us, and of course, above us.
And let us continue, for ‘tis indeed Faol that hath stated that the Light is a voice within one of us, a sacred calling to aid your fellow man, a divine plea from the heavens that resounds within each invidual soul, imploring them to practice virtue. But what is reason to virtue? What virtue hath sprung from reason, and not the immortal soul, sustained and norush by the divine?
Indeed, it ‘tis the virtue of reason that ‘tis naught’ but foul utterances, for the culmination of the morality of reason ‘tis nought’ but a foul heresy, named the name of utilitarianism by Philosophers from the Northern Kingdoms. Some will tell you that these ‘philosophers’ have different theories upon morality, that simply a single foul ideology ‘twas produced, that one can-not make so grand a presumption as this! Yet these are the philosophers whom are hypocrites, who attempt to fuse dulling reason with inspiring light! And they might hold unto their old faiths, yet they rarely do in earnest, for they wish more to question and devour knowledge than to truly understand.
For even in those whom are not utilitarians, the same ‘tis seen: Life is but a machine that can be measured, and morality, love, passion, may be measured with a simple yardstick, and than scoffed at as the faith of the deluded, of the spirit of the blind.
Yet nae’, I say, nae’. Reason ‘tis cold indeed, yet the coldness of winter hath naught’ over-come the young mother’s love for her child, and neither did the chilling winds of Northrend halt the forces that struck at the dread citadel of Arthas!
But this, this ‘tis only one of the many barbarous lies spun in the name of reason, that somehow they may measure and judge a man’s life, that they may proclaim the goodness of a man’s heart false, or the virtue given to us at birth by the Light as merely as ‘ineffective’ or ‘inefficient’ at promoting the overall well-being of society.
Nae’, reason has wrought far more horror then I hath merely described. It ‘twas reason that led Archibald to free up the markets, allowing countless peasants to starve. It ‘twas reason, that industrialists used as their shield of false virtue, as the acclaimed philosophers justified their action. It ‘tis reason, my friends, that let man live in decrepit conditions, and that ev’n leads the burning legion to attempt to write terror upon the names of all worlds, as they believe that in their re-making, some greater good will indeed come.
And despite all this, I shall hear objections. Sacred Philosophy, they say, ‘tis using an implement otherwise vile and repugnant to gain knowledge of the sacred! Yet when hath vileness and depravity, monotonous pangs that dull men’s souls, truly sanctified anything sacred, anything –holy-? For we, we are mere humans, dwelling upon this mortal plane. We are naught’ perfect, we are imperfect beings, and ‘though that ‘tis perhaps part of our beauty, it only serves to show that reason ‘tis also imperfect. Nae’, more than merely imperfect, for it ‘tis a faulty system to it’s core, as if we, imperfect ourselves, can learn of something as wond’rous as the Divine through wit and cunning?
It ‘tis nothing other than petty arrogance, the same arrogance of the highbourne when they sought to plumb the secrets of the arcane, and the same foolhardiness of Arthas himself when he took it upon himself as the role of the arbriter of morality! And just as the Light ‘tis the arbriter of morality, as we hath supposedly proven, yet ought to know through simply simple faith, let it also be said that the’ Light is the arbriter of knowledge!
For as the Light of Creation hath’ birthed all things, and dwells in all things, let it be said that the Light indeed knows of all things! And if the Light wishes for us to be granted knowledge, then it shall give us knowledge, grant it to us by it’s grace. Yet why, why in the name of the Light itself, have we sought to plumb the Light as if it was a mere object of study. For are we mages, practicioners of the arcane?
Nae’! We are disciples of the divine, and we ought nought taketh the knowledge of the divine without first asking. For reason intends to take, to separate and to gain knowledge that the Light per’haps wished naught’ of us. Let us learn, than, through relevation, through prayer and communion with the Light itself. For it ‘tis there, that the Light shall grant us knowledge if it wishes to, and indeed, many have learned through faith, which ‘tis a no wordly way to connect with the Light.
Why, when we have already indeed been given divine faith, do we seek to use a faculty, a worldly faculty that has wrought terror, to learn of the Light? From whence hath this unholy right arisen, and whom shall strike at the heart of this alliance between sacred and the corrupt?
Where hath gone the common man, for I have met the common men, I have lived with the common man in fair Gilneas, and the common man ‘tis a stranger to philosophy. He knows the simple faith of the Light, and he seeks naught to greedily devour and reduce the Light’s mysteries, but instead to revel and delight in mystery and wonder, exacerbating his pure faith to greater levels.
Let us forget reason, let us forget logic, let us forget the complications and paradoxes that belie attempting to ascertain the direct nature of the Light, as many greedily seek its knowledge. For let us taketh only what the Light Giveth, let us live by pure and simple faith, and by the virtues granted by the Light.
And for those still un-convinced, whom still greedily seek further knowledge, let it be said that you too, shall be appeased when you see that knowledge granted directly by the Divine Light will far outshine any mere construction or creation of man!
Be led onwards by faith, for faith is the solace of the common man, wonder is his birthmark. As Faol hath said, the Light is what allows him to pass through the seasons of his life, through chilling winters and scorching summers, and let us return to these words, to the poetry of the Light and the Divine mystery that we may all revel in.
To all goodly priests and paladins of the clergy,
To-day is undoubtedly a most grave day. I know not whether the news hath reached and rung within the ears of each person of the body this letter is addressed to, and hence I shall firstly summarize the spectacle that took place.
Approximately at the hour of two and thirty minutes, two peoples came into the church. One was an elf that bore dark garb suggesting he was some manner of an eldritch caster, and the other was a human, whom had features suggesting that he was born of the Northern lands. They hastily ascended to the altar of the Cathedral, and thereafter they began to preach.
Occasionally an individual comes forth in the Cathedral not of the clergy, and spouts forth words that yield a new array of revelations. These individuals were such individuals. The knowledge however, was not that which they wished to impart. It stood not in the character of the words but rather in their nature, and the sheer degree of audacity in which they were spoke. Only a very certain set of conditions are possible for such words to be spoken.
Before speaking first of the requisite conditions, I shall confront first the words in greater detail. The two stated that the Light had given rise to a slavish morality which subjugates the weak to the strong. They have stated that the Light suppresses the individual and breaks the freedom of men, bringing them into a hollow submission. Furthermore, the announced that the only way to break loose of these evils was to cast off the yoke of the Light itself, which would bring men into a new age of prosperity.
In other words, these men sought to sway the sheep of the clergy into the death knell of atheism. In times past, these two would have certainly been stricken down hastily by the clergy! Yet such did not occur. Within the House of the Light those that were its champions and arbiters sat idle. They did speak. They spoke of not any longer provoking these men, but so too they spoke of granting them both -tolerance- and -understanding- while they spat upon the hallowed foundations of the Cathedral.
And now we see twin evils have come forth. There is the shadow of atheism that has been cast over the church, and the blight of indifference that decays it from within. And decay! That is what I seek to speak of. Only when the church, nay, when civilization itself has fallen into a state of decadence may someone come forth to so brazenly challenge the fountain-head, the church, that has always stood at the heart of civilized life.
And hence, with great woe I say that this elf is now a spontaneous outburst of sickness. He is but the symptom of a far more dire peril that looms at the fore of the Clergy. After the fool's sermon had finished, I spoke. And I asked a gathering of your people, clergy-men, what was it that these men saw in the Light that it lacked? I received no answer. I was told once more by the peoples of the church that this was - to put it simply - not a matter of any concern. That it was not a matter of any solemnity, or importance, that in essence, all we ought to do as church-men is mock him!
Alas, I will not bring myself to such a fate. The same trouble that had stirred these two men, and tore them a-sunder from the Light has brought doubt in me, a man once always firm of faith! That is: The Light has been stripped of its animating spirit. The Light has been removed, torn from the earth to reside within the Heavens. We speak of morality now, yet what of the hero that stands upon the rocky cliff? In his struggle and conflict, was not morality ascended? And in the very beauty and glory of the Light, is morality not temporarily forgotten?
Each day I come upon more men that mock the Light. Each day I come upon more men that leave the church, that laugh at it, that are always consumed with a rebelliousness which defines their very nature. Is there not a reason for this? The reason is thus: the Light has split heavens and earth.
Doubtlessly, a response will come forth that reads as this: "Sir Stormshend! Are you not a symptom of the very plague you spake of? For was it not you that cast off the earthly comprehension of the Light in Divine Philosophy, and endlessly despised it? Was it not ye, that denounced any attempts to explain the Light through logos?"
And I respond: "Aye! And still I hold true to the words I prior spoke! Reason is but another fruit of the heavens. Reason gives birth to the cruelty that denies men the vision that he once possessed! When I speak of earth I speak not of some mechanical machine (for the Light is not a mathematician) but rather the great, swelling world-soul that pumps with erratic rhythms, which the Light, fueled of passion and emotion, would choose above some scientist's dream!"
Yet let us return to the essential question: What does the Light lack which this man seeks? Substance! It lacks all that is not merely rigid morality. It has, in great sorrow, come more of a philosophy than a religion, and hence men feel justified to cast it off through logic. The Light must once more drink from the dark well of the Earth, the Light must once more inhale the draught of our ancients. For it requires -vitality-, and this is what they knew well!
I long to see a man once more entering the throes of ecstasy while he is in worship, I long to see the Light itself once more infused with personality. For do we forget that the paladins were brought forth under the hand of Tyr, a mythic hero? Hence the Light must be made mythic once more! If the Light has brought forth the world, let us strive forth and experience the sublime within the forest and the grove.
The Light must take up a creative drive, and the Light must confront the dream. For the Dream is where an individual may once more enter into that blissful state where all things become sacred, and where all mechanical rigidity is thrown a-way. Let the Light embrace the dream that an individual enters with-in. Let the Light remember the words of our ancestors once more, and may a new animating spirit overtake it. This will cease the mocking.
What must be forgotten for this to begin? Universalism! I spoke long ago of it, but now I shall explicate greater. Universalism is what brings a standard doctrine unto all nations. Hence the culture of a nation and its faith is cast a-sunder, as heavens and earth themselves are. Nay, I say. The Light must speak and the Light must be recognized within every crevice of existence.
We must see the Light amongst the moors of Gilneas and we must see the Light amongst the hills of Arathor.
We must see the Light amongst the wintery knolls of Alterac and we must see the Light amongst the gleaming spires of Lordaeron.
We must see the Light in the ancient druid, and we must see the Light within the holy life-pillar.
We must see the Light amongst love and pity, and we must see the Light in a state of gleeful wildness.
Then, the decay of the church may be brought to a halt, and the decadence that compelled these two men to speak may yet lead the church into a new blossoming of spirit.
In great concern,
Sir Ferenold Stormshend.
Responses to the 2nd Letter (Credit goes to the players of those whom wrote the letters!)Edit
To exhort the clergy to piety befitting their station is commendable, and were that the extent of your criticism, it would be well-taken; Light forbid that heretics and heathens be allowed to corrupt the people freely, much less with such ignorant rubbish as you mention!
There are, however, certain items in this list of complaints which themselves invite correction. You say that this lapse- which will, of course, be duly investigated- is but a symptom of a deeper problem. You say that the Sacred Philosophy reduces the Light to mechanism- a cold, intellectual commitment that cannot sustain the spirit. You would pit reason against spirit, mysticism against scholasticism, and would see the victory of the former at the expense of the latter in each instance. This betrays several defects in your own philosophy, however, not one in ours.
Firstly, you misconceive mortal nature- the intellect consists in our capacity to grasp the good, and the emotions to give the good so grasped its due. They are not in opposition, but work in harmony and hierarchy so as to form the unity of mortal nature, in which each in its proper place enhances the other and is indeed inseperable from the other. To denigrate the intellect, therefore, is misguided. What profit to mortal nature, after all, if mere ecstatic emotion dominates? Even the heathen trolls can do as much, as they whirl like mad before their cruel gods. Ought we call that vitality? No, to the clear mind it is savagery, slavery and insanity- such brutish ecstasy is life diminished, rather than enhanced, for the troll abandons his reason and the good to serve his gods, and thereby has his own being as a mortal creature less abundantly.
The mortal nature is distinguished from the merely animal precisely insofar as it is also an intellectual nature, and it is this nature, in its proper place, that sacred philosophy serves. In the fulfillment of the intellectual nature, properly joined to the animal, we exult without losing sense. Mere expression becomes art, philosophy becomes true religion, and action becomes virtue. Life, then, is not diminished or constrained, but given form and perfected, by the proper embracing of the intellectual nature.
This is not to say that sacred philosophy is the terminus of the spiritual life- Light forbid! None of us treat it so. I invite you to attend to the great works of art that have been and are still produced- the wondrous musics and beautiful paintings and profound literary meditations by our working saints, clergy and lay. I invite you to consider the mighty piety that moves many thousands to spend lives in poverty in the service of their fellow-men, defending them in holy battle, or ministering to their material needs. Remove the crust from your eyes and see reality as it is, and not as distorted through the complaints of the unworthy, and the glory of the Church's work and the quality of faith it inspires should be well apparent.
Secondly, you misconceive the Church's teaching on the Light- for the Holy Light is not removed from any part of the mortal condition. It sustains all things in being, according to their nature. Precisely as the principle of creation, it is that which imparts Form and order to all. Your advocacy of a return to a more primal chaos is actually destructive of the Light's creative work in us- Formlessness, qua formlessness, is departure from being and nature, and therefore evil. Formlessness is not freedom or liberation- it is unbeing. To wish for some formless dream is for the full-grown man to wish again for the womb. It is a vain wish, a foolish one, and an evil one, for it is precisely to wish, not for growth, which is the perfection of the good, but for perverse regress or unmaking, the destruction of the good of the mortal nature, and contrary to the Light's creative, perfecting work.
The comprehension of the divine order, by contrast, is a divine gift, which is perfecting, rather than regressive or destructive. That you think this order is reduced in sacred philosophy to crude mechanism merely betrays your ignorance of such. The Church's understanding of the order of creation has always been more sublime than that. The Church loves both myth and philosophy, the intellectual and the emotional, and does not see an opposition between them, precisely insofar as it is committed to Form and order- for Creation is one, and the sages of the church, unto the present day, perceive the same principle of order -that you call Logos- that moves both spirit and body. It knows such truths, unsurprisingly, by the reflections of its sacred philosophers!
This contempt for order and the principle of Form, according to which all creation has its being, manifests finally in your misguided denigration of that aspect of the mortal Form according to which the will is rightly ordered, or the moral law. All creation is the Light's domain, and neither good of the moral sort, which rightly orders the mortal will, nor of the general kind, by which things fulfill their nature, lies outside it. It is in the face of the beauty and glory of the Light that even the greatest of saints feel the least iniquity most acutely. It is in the heart of the Light's radiance that we find the unity of goodness, with no aspect obscured or subsumed, but each most fully expressed and terribly apparent. Your complaint that the Church unjustly emphasizes the moral life, presented as if in opposition to its spiritual mission, is thus without foundation and ignorant of the Holy Light.
If I might offer a simpler diagnosis of the problem with the scoffers and mockers, it is my own observation that ignorance and stupidity have always been, and will always be with us, and this is not something to which there is any real solution, philosophical or pastoral, as if people were merely puzzles to be solved. Take it as a consequence of mortal nature, and a warning, but do not trouble yourself overmuch with such people. The greatest wisdom, given to the unworthy, leads often to uncomprehending ridicule. The most gracious mercy, given to the ungrateful and cynical, leads often to abuse. For that matter, the most profound meditations, offered to the worldly, leads most often to scorn. The ignorant and rude are no kinder to mystics than philosophers, after all!
Fr. B. Ironbrow.
There is, I think, a point in time where I would have agreed with you and yet now I find I am in disagreement. I pose this question to you, as you mention Tyr who I shall discuss later, would you worship the hammer that drives home the nail to build your home? Would you pray to your sword to strike true and to defend you in battle? Would you pray to your cup to spring no leak and hold your drink as it should? To do so would be laughable, I have lived my life amongst soldiers and had become accustomed to habits and rituals of superstition that would raise eyebrows – yet never once could I honestly say I saw man or woman praying to their blade, asking their gun for a blessing, looking to a bandage for deliverance.
The reason I pose this question to you is that there are those of us who would find it odd to consider a tool a figure worthy of our prayers, of our faith and of our worship – so in this case why should we pray to the Light? Long have I been a faithful servant of the Light, from when I was but a lad on the farm to the days before now when I was a formidable presence on the field of battle, and yet now I find myself less and less of holding to the faith of the Light – though its tenets are strong and its grounding fine, it is not something worthy of faith. As a newfound friend put forth to me – the Light is not a religion from which springs mysticism and magic, it is a magic from which sprung forth a religion. The mage does bend knee before the Arcane and offer up prayers of piety to a formless energy, why should we paladins and priests do the same? We bend knee to a magic and think it is a Divinity, a thing of morality and understanding – but how can this be when we have seen atrocities committed in the name of the Light?
Though I know many have reformed, and that those who remain did not partake in their actions, I draw attention to the Scarlet Crusade. Afflicted by a madness that goes beyond the bounds of simple zealotry, after the acts of terrorism they committed in the name of the Light – the deaths of countless innocents among the greatest – they yet retained the Light. I ask of you, if the Light were in fact a Divinity worthy of worship, why would I pray to something that allowed young children to be slaughtered for the sheer thought they may be corrupted? That allowed men and women to become a force more terrifying, more depraved than any demon or undead to stalk the lands?
The Light is a powerful force – I do not disagree – but it is not a force driven by thought, by reason or by morality. It is a force driven by the will of the one who wields it – it is a tool to be used, not to be worshiped.
This is not to say I advocate atheism! Far from it, there are too many instances in this world alone to show that such a path is one of idiocy. Instead I advocate a path that has begun to grow, slowly and steadily, but is still eclipsed by the worship of tools – that of the Titans. These beings, the true shapers of our world and from whom human, dwarf, and gnome can call Maker are the ones that we should pray to – for it is from them, undoubtedly, that the Light sprung forth. To call, as you did, upon the figure of Tyr – a being of note in the mythologies and stories of man, and one we now know existed in Northrend and did once bestride the world. This figure is one to pray to, for he represents what it means to be a paladin – what it means to be a hero.
His sacrifice, his uncompromising will to allow the defenseless to come to harm – just as he was the father, if only in spirit, of the Order of the Silver Hand – so must he be the true wielder of the Light. With his disappearance from our world, he must have assuredly left the Light behind so we might rise to the spot he left for us. Tyr gave us the Light to defend ourselves – and defend ourselves we shall, but it should not be a prayer to the Light which leaves our lips when the heat of battle is around us and we can see our death in the eyes of an orc, but to Tyr and the Titans, to those who came before us and who gave their lives to try and contain the evils that beset our fair world.
These are the paragons of virtue and morality we must bend knee to, these are the figures of divine essence who can tell wicked from just and deny those wicked any power they might seek at any cost. Though you did indeed address this to members of the Clergy on the matter of the Light, I felt it only proper that one of differing views from all parties concerned might weigh in. Though your zeal and fire is to be commended, I hope that my words alone might drive your passion down a proper path. Though, if praying to a hammer to not hit your thumb is part of your daily life – well, I fear all I’ve done is waste my ink and parchment.
Signed, Baron Odric von Brakkenwald