In a recent discussion on whether people enjoy activities because they are related to survival, I made the following remark:
I am thinking that the question of “enjoying survival-related activities” is rather a non-traditional re-casting of something that is true, especially in the Iron Age. We enjoy conflict. For example, every writer knows that conflict is essential to a story. A story about everyone being happy with no obstacles to overcome just isn’t pleasing to an audience. Every game, from football to chess, involves an essential element of conflict.
Conflict, of course, is ruled by Sai Vikhë and one would expect a conflict-oriented mentality to arise in the Age of Iron (iron also being ruled by Sai Vikhë). It is also interesting to note that while love is ruled by Sai Sushuri, “sex” is also ruled by Sai Vikhë. “Sex and violence” are the two mainstays of modern entertainment, both essentially vikhelic in nature.
The vikhelic tendency is also often regarded as the lowest or most earth-bound of the seven (red being the lowest end of the visible spectrum). This is not to say that conflict is a “bad thing” inherently. Indeed conflict is in some degree the nature of manifestation – if all elements had stayed in perfect harmony, manifestation would not have taken place. Chinese metaphysics describe the manifest cosmos as a constant process of elemental conflict.
This led to my being asked how I view conflict in the books I write, and I thought I would share the answer with you all:
I write my books very much from an intemorphic standpoint, and ideas like conflict certainly are ones that I think a lot about. Intemorphs are in some sense “pacifist” in that they do not use deadly force on their own kind. This is true of many animal species also – giraffes have sharp hooves capable of disemboweling a lion but when giraffes fight among themselves – often very fiercely – they use their round-ended horns, often inflicting nasty bruises and other injuries but never using their truly deadly force.
When I say this, I am certainly not suggesting that people are animals. Quite the reverse – as the Axial being, maid is the only being capable of either rising above or falling below her own thamë. Animals follow their thamë, being restricted to the horizontal plane.
So, while intemorphs may have conflicts among themselves, one that used deadly force would be considered not just wicked, but insane. Intemorphs do, however, maintain the capacity to defend themselves against demonic forces and aggressive outlanders.
As others have said, patriarchal schizomorphs war against each other and have done since the beginning of patriarchy (there is evidence that pre-patriarchal societies did not war against each other, but I am not really any expert on schizomorphic history).
Now I would contend that the war with dark forces is something in which we are all engaged – even if only in terms of the battle with our own false self. In patriarchal war-culture, the demon tends to be projected on the “enemy”. So both sides see themselves as righteous and the enemy as the “devil”. And to some extent this is a valid ritual enactment of the Vikhail, or Holy War. I much prefer the intemorphic approach, but then I am undoubtedly prejudiced.
So, conflict in the books I write is primarily conflict with demons, and (sometimes) secondarily conflict with outside forces against which defense becomes necessary. The first of these two I would call necessary conflict, since we all have to confront the demon. The second I would call accidental conflict, since it comes about only through the “historical” activities of outland forces. In other words it might or might not have happened.
So I am also saying that I believe conflict is unavoidable. If you do not ritualize conflict in wars with demons projected on your fellow Axial beings, then you will have to confront demons directly, because the vikhelic element is part of our manifest existence and cannot not manifest in one form or another – especially in the Age of Iron, where it is bound to manifest in its grossest forms.
Professor Tolkien said that he wrote fantasy adventure partly because it allowed him to write about wholly good people. This is a very interesting statement to me. Part of what he means (I think) is that in the modern climate, the psychological novel has (had even in his time) reached the stage where it is very much about “inner demons” and continually riddled with moral ambiguities. The good protagonist is considered a naïveté.
Professor Tolkien – in a manner that was actually very remarkable for the anti-romantic time in which he wrote, more or less single-handedly re-popularized the Epic style. I suppose I also gravitate toward the Epic. I write about the eternal conflict between light and dark, good and evil, and I do so from a Déanic perspective – and a Rayannic perspective.
And on Aristotle’s idea that competitive debate could replace violence:
A fundamental difference between the Intemorphic outlook on conflict and that of Aristotle (but not Confucius) is that we do not believe disagreement is endemic. In fact quite the reverse. We see debate and discussion not as a form of conflict, but as a joint search for the truth. If we end in disagreement, then somewhere along the way one side or the other must have missed something. That is our view of things.
This is very alien, I understand, to the modern west-Tellurian individualist mentality (of which Aristotle was a forerunner), which actually enshrines irreconcilable disagreement and permanent conflict into its system of government (the “party” – ie parted or separated – system). To us this seems almost as crazy as internal warfare. We believe that harmony is the fundamental principle of society, and without it society is dysfunctional.
So – my characters are fundamentally good people. They may sometimes be misled and do bad things. They may let temporary emotions override good sense and good will. They are maid (she who has the power of choice) after all. But they are not morally ambiguous. They know what is right and they live in a society which is not in doubt or conflict about what is right. Some of them (for example, the crew of the Silver Vixen, at least in the early part of the book) are very naughty and don’t give a darn. But they all know what is right, and when the chips are down they will mostly strive to do the right thing.
But the penalty for not projecting the demon on your fellow beings is that the demon attacks you directly. Goldenhead is much more about this than The Flight of the Silver Vixen.
The conflict vs harmony question also enters, more subtly, into other areas that the books examine. Technology for example. While patriarchal technology is the result of a (“scientific”) revolution against traditional metaphysics, intemorphic societies – in their very nature – were incapable of such revolutions, and their technologies are built from the application and extension of traditional science. They still take the path ever deeper into the material domain, because that is the nature of the Age of Iron, but they do it in a manner that does not involve the rejection of traditional truth. So, for example, a scientific genius like RaiChinchi is very much a member of the priestly/intellectual Estate (the Haiela) and will not carry a firearm or edged weapon.