Friday, November 2, 2007

Dwarven Philosophy Primer

[This work was prepared for a sourcebook on dwarves proposed, but never submitted to, Kenzer & Co. for Kingdoms of Kalamar. When rejected, it was modified to fit TSR's World of Greyhawk and intended to go in a "Dwarves of the Flanaess" article for the Canonfire! web site, but then was cut and a more concise "Dwarves" article can still be found on Canonfire!]

Ever since Moradin created the first dwarves and showed them around his smithy, the gods have been generous in sharing knowledge with dwarvenkind. This has not been a hindrance in the development of dwarven philosophy. Some are driven by a need to understand for themselves. Others seek answers the gods have always protected. These answers include the nature of the world, knowledge, truth, and alignment with the gods.

Middle Bronze Age Philosophy

The earliest known school of dwarven thought was propagated by four known philosophers -- Telak, Rogamikim, Remimikim, and Remakanaz. They all lived roughly 8,500-8,000 years ago. Variations aside, all four subscribed to the same theory on the nature of the world. The world was forged out of earth, and all life is understood through earth. What's more, all earth is itself alive, albeit in a different sense than dwarves are alive. As proof, they offered plant life, and how it springs directly from the earth. Telak elaborated on the relationship of earth to the rest of the four basic elements -- air, fire and water. Air, fire and water are finite -- there are places where dwarves have trouble breathing, fires eventually all burn out, and water disappears over time. Only earth is permanent and infinite.

Dwarves have always known this world, which men call Oerth, by the name Gurad. Many human religions hold that the world has always existed, while others have conflicting creation myths. Dwarves, who have always valued the act of creation above all else, have poured many a philosophical thought into solving how the gods created Gurad. Rogamikim offered an explanation for the creation of the world in his analogy of a scrambled egg. In the beginning, earth was the yolk -- the life. Air, fire, and water fed the earth. But the gods scrambled the elements together until they intermingled into the shape of the world as it is now.

Almost universally, dwarven thought has focused on Gurad as being everything underground. The aboveground is the top of the world, or at least a natural extension of it. Remimikim described the world as a melon, with the rind being the aboveground. What mattered was inside, but the rind was still important to the melon as a whole. Completing the analogy, the seeds inside represented living beings, like the dwarves.

Some failings that crop up in ancient dwarven philosophy include the failure to acknowledge life on the aboveground as important, or even that a universe beyond the world mattered. Dwarves of eight millennia past surely knew of life on the aboveground. The philosophers valued surface world items for their value in analogies. The aboveground was a useful tool for understanding how the world as a whole worked -- like being on the outside looking in. But dwarves seem to have found little other importance in it. Even more curiously, no known ancient dwarven writings so much as mention the sky, the moons, the sun, or the stars. It is as if dwarves found these things above the world only a distraction, and not necessary in an understanding of the world.

Remakanaz came closest to describing the sky when he proposed his layered world theory. This theory held that the world was divisible into 11 layers. The uppermost was the air layer, or sky. Beneath that was the water layer, which seemed to include the entire surface world down into the soil. The rest of the world was composed of layers of the nine then-known components of earth -- coal, sulfur, lead, mercury, tin, iron, copper, silver, and a gold core. The layers were not pure, but contained veins of the materials from the other layers.

As early as Rogamikim, it has been believed by dwarves that all knowledge is ultimately knowable. The basic tenents of how reality works are lawful and unchanging, and thus mortals could eventually accumulate the total sum of knowledge about reality. Documentation of knowledge becomes even more important with this mindset, explaining how any writing by philosophers 8,500 years ago has endured. Only Remakanaz of the ancient scholars remained skeptical, believing that the gods would always keep some information unknowable.

Followers of skepticism have been rare throughout dwarven history. It has been generally assumed that the gods are always truthful in what they reveal to dwarvenkind, that what they choose to reveal is in dwarven best interests, and that truth itself exists a priori to the gods, and is thus unalterable by the gods.

Late Bronze Age Philosophy

Though it was Moradin who taught dwarves about smithing, it was Ulaa who first took them to the surface and showed them how many hills and mountains there were, thus showing the dwarves the way of numbers. When dwarves were still 4,000 years from the present date, they had already mastered arithmetic and were beginning on geometry. These developments profoundly changed the nature of philosophy. Logic was now dictated by mathematical doctrines.

Rurimari was the first to apply shapes to theology. Rurimari’s famous table of squares has been borrowed since by other races. It is a grid three squares on a side that shows law, chaos, good, evil, and neutrality intersecting and combining at various points on the grid. As an example of how seriously dwarves take their philosophy, Rurimari had an argument with his students over mapping the known gods onto the table of squares. Several students were so adamantly opposed to his placements that they bound him to his chair and held him prisoner. They were unable to force him to reconsider, until eventually his family effected his rescue.

Ulgimurar Angak lived nearly 3,000 years ago. He is remembered for two advances. The first was differentiating between Rogamikim’s notion of perfect truth, which is attainable through knowledge, and truth perceived by the senses. The second was suggesting that Rurimari’s table of squares can be viewed as a series of paths. Dwarven history reflected a movement from the juncture of chaos and evil across the table to the juncture of lawful and good. Ulgimurar believed that history was a macrocosmic view of a path every dwarf was meant to take in life, always aiming to be lawful and good. In fact, the dwarven phrase rorm lem digar (“left and up”) is a direct reference to Ulgimurar’s theory.

Turimardek was a dwarven noble who turned his mind to philosophy around 2,100 years ago. Turimardek tried to reconcile the world as an ordered, rational place -- as dwarves understood it -- with the existence of magic, which was unknowable and unpredictable -- as dwarves understood it. He declared that magic was not real or, more specifically, was in varying degrees illusionary. After Turimardek’s death, there would be a schism amongst his followers for the next 1,000 years. Some believed that if all magic was illusionary, and the gods wielded magic, then spellcasters were all taping divine power. The rest believed that, if magic was illusionary, then the gods were all tricksters and their power should be denounced. The schism ended dramatically when his atheistic followers were struck down in a massive retribution by the gods.

Tegimum Angak was a poet who lived 1,700 years ago. As well as being a direct descendent of Ulgimurar, he is also remembered as the first dwarf to advocate the notion of dualistic reality. Light and dark are exclusionary, in that one "is" while the other "is not." Yet, when looked at together, light and dark create shadow -- a more comprehensive reality than either is separately. Tegimum applied this thinking to explain how chaos could exist in a lawful universe. The truth is the more comprehensive reality revealed when one looks at lawful reality with the "spheres" of chaos inside it. Previously, some dwarven scholars had even doubted that chaos truly existed or, rather, that chaos could be explained by rational law if it was fully understood. Turimardek had refered to "cycles" of chaos, which were themselves lawful in nature. Tegimum asserted that this was not a true assessment of chaos on an individual level. That chaos existed in its own "spheres" (read as microcosms) within which results could not be predicted.

It was 1,600 years ago that a once-young apprentice of Tegimum named Onez began a campaign of skepticism that contradicted his former mentor. Onez's bone of contention was time, which did not seem to have an opposite or a dual reality. It would take over 50 years before another thinker, Turtek Tumal,came up with a solution. Time, he said, was the lawful structure of reality. Its opposite was entropy. Viewed together, the larger reality was the plan of the gods. Turtek is still widely respected today, perhaps moreso because he was also a warrior. Had he not been cut down at a relatively early age by orcs, who knows what further insights he might have had.

Living after Turtek was a poet/philosopher named Relbidak Zargok. Relbidak tried to explain how a dualistic universe operated with a system of four elements. His solution consisted of two dualities which existed simultaneously -- air and fire opposed by earth and water, and a balance of elements opposed by an imbalance of elements. The former pairings have been judged as weak and arbitrary by most other philosophers, but the later concept has been much favored since. What Relbidak is really remembered for, though, is the concept of "four in two in one," or, two pairs of dualities which combined make an even greater truth. Philosophers since have used this slippery math to explain the paradox of duality with four elements. Skeptics have delighted in using the phrase "four in two in one" to apply to situations which do not add up.

Larminad Danglim was a later contemporary of Relbidak who offered his own fix on the duality of elements. Larminad saw separate dualities above and below ground -- fire and air held sway aboveground (as evidenced by the sun), earth and air held sway underground (as evidenced by air-filled caves deep beneath the surface). This concept would be adopted by the field of medecine. If a dwarf suffered any malady while aboveground, it was said the dwarf was lacking earth in his body and needed to return beneath the surface. Likewise, dwarves who stayed too long underground were said to need a trip aboveground to restore their inner fire.

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