The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

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The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Sat Nov 14, 2015 9:53 pm

Brother Dominic sits amid piles of papers, eager to discuss the path of bones with any who wish to join him. On the papers are scattered notes about biology, focused on causes of death, as well as some notes on how vampires seemingly violate these patterns in nature.
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:52 pm

Simon approaches and sits quietly.  With a gentle smile he says...

Dominic.  I am curious.  Being no scholar on these topics, I am not familiar with the Road of Bones.  Or did you say it was a path?

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:16 pm

(OOC: I used the wrong term in the subject line because the Dark Ages sourcebooks refer you to the modern nights source books for details on the via ossium, and the modern nights source books apparently changed the nomenclature from "road of bones" to "path of bones", and that tripped me up:

http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Road_of_Bones
http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Path_of_Bones
)
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:29 pm

OOC:Answer in character please!  Simon ain't going to no wikia.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:57 am

"Perhaps I misspoke, your grace. I apologize. Colloquially, the choice of 'road' versus 'path' of bones for the original 'via ossium' is a matter of translation, and English is not my first language. Sometimes in my enthusiasm for a particular subject I take less care in precision of expression than I ought. I believe you are correct that the proper translation would be 'road of bones'."
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Wed Jan 27, 2016 9:41 am

Path or Road, I am not a scholar of these things. I understand you enjoy studying things, and find death to be of particular interest... Beyond that I know very little, and I am not sure how an academic interest serves to bolster ones morality. I, for example, enjoy sailing, and appreciate the artistry of ship building, but no matter how deeply I study such things I would find no help against the beast.
That your morality is dictated by learning is...intriguing.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Wed Jan 27, 2016 12:49 pm

Well, there I can help you. Or at least, I can attempt to explain.

What is the central element of our existence? The primary focus of our cursed state? Some might say, perhaps, that it is our relationship to the beast; but to my mind, that appears to be a symptom of our condition, not its core. The core of our condition is that we exist beyond the natural cycle of life and death.

Consider an animal such as a frog or, better yet, a feral cat. The work of the kine Philosopher Aristotle concerning the sources of life and motion in that animal have yet to be surpassed by any kine thinkers I have come across (though I am intrigued by several recent attempts to unseat Aristotle's theories of biology as the dominant scientific conceptions), and yet, you and I, and literally every Cainite, undermine his theories on the vital principles.

I mean, of course he was right to place importance on the blood, but the principles of vitality espoused in "On the Generation of Animals" cannot be reconciled with the basic operations of Cainite physiology.

My point is not to run down Aristotle. He had a marvelous mind. Truly, truly, he was a brilliant scholar. And of course, he did not have any empirical study of Cainites to incorporate into his theories, so one could hardly expect him to work out a theory that accounts for us. Sorry, that was something of a tangent.

Dominic's rate of speaking increases somewhat.

The point is this: Cainites are defined by our exclusion from the natural order of life and death. If the rumors of Golconda are true (about which one would apparently need to consult Father Marius), even the beast within can be tamed not merely subdued. Which confirms that the essence of our kind is our peculiar relationship to death.

Understanding and wisdom are at the heart of morals. Knowledge of materials and ship construction is how the seas are conquered and the world explored, but knowledge of our own natures, that is how we are best empowered to enact the dictates of our own consciences.
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Guest on Wed Jan 27, 2016 2:02 pm

There is much wisdom in your words, Dominic. Even the pursuit of Golconda, as you touched on in your explanation, requires substantial knowledge and education. Study of the world around us, the word of God, and the histories of our kind are the first steps on the path, and it is only through that knowledge that one might even begin the process of, as you say, taming the beast.

Where our opinions differ, of course, is the importance of our relationship with death. To Noddists such as myself, the curse is merely an example of God's power transcending such concepts as life and death. There are even many scholars who feel that the attaining of Golconda results in a return to morality and the natural cycle. Some believe that "taming" the beast and becoming human, and thus dying, once again are one in the same.

Still though, the importance of knowledge of Cainite nature cannot be denied, and I could not agree more that it is that knowledge which empowers us to enact the dictates of our consciences. At least, for those of us who follow such dictates, rather than relying on our conviction for our principles.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:26 pm

I see. Except...we can die. We are not exempt from it are we?

In what way do we have a special relationship with death? Simply that we do not seem to age? What mystery is it you seek?

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:01 pm

Ah, Your Grace, you are correct, of course, that we can die, and yet, we also have already died. Though I suppose some might dispute that we truly die upon acquiring the curse.

I could put the point differently, and I think it might be clearer:

Take any other living thing we encounter, and that being is on a path from its generation to its inevitable corruption and decay. The seed becomes a sapling, the sapling a mature tree, and eventually, even if no one chops the tree down, the tree's natural life-cycle comes to an end. The tree loses the capacity to draw out water and nutrients from the soil, or energy from the sun. An egg hatches into a chick, the chicken matures into a rooster, the rooster becomes old and infirm, and, even if no farmer chops off its head, it will succumb to death.

We are not immortal in the unrestricted sense of the word. Our lives can be terminated. But it appears that without such intervention, our lives have no natural terminus.

It is true that we still require sustenance, we are subject to physical harms (some moreso after becoming cainites and some novel to our status as cainites), but you could put a member of the kine in a room with unlimited supplies of food, and keep away all potential predators and harms, and still, after some 70 or 80 years, that human would succumb to death.

Our brand of immortality is simply the removal of a tendency towards dissolution. We require sustenance, yes, but if you were to provide us with an unlimited supply of blood, and protect us from the sun and like physical harms, we would not tend towards death in the same manner as every other living thing.
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:32 pm

But as you say, we are not living. Can we be equated to other living beings? And if I were to place a mortal in a room with unlimited food, safety, and cainite blood, they would live a long and healthy life. Would they not? It is the blood then, not an esoteric connection with death, that separates us from the perils of age.

And the blood is not ours alone. As a mortal needs sustenance, so too do we. Locked away in a room with no blood we would succumb to the dreamless death sleep of torpor. In time even our bodies may fall to dust. Who can say?

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:32 pm

An unlimited source of blood would be required for either party it seems.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Wed Jan 27, 2016 5:09 pm

Dominic smiles and speaks with an earnest tone.

You have an extremely agile mind, Your Grace, and if I thought for a moment that you were not steadfastly dedicated to whichever road you currently travel, I would be keen to have you walk alongside me on the via ossium. As it is, I am quite content to converse with you on these issues of our unusual biology, as I am sure it will make my own journey more rewarding and enriching.

Aristotle speaks of the natural form of an animal. Some take him merely to refer to the shape or structure of the creature, but a careful reading of his works, and of those heretic commentators who have studied him so thoroughly, evince a more nuanced understanding. The form of a rabbit is more than a drawing of the rabbit's interior, and more even than a design plan for the construction of rabbits. It enshrines the design of an ideal rabbit: it includes the story of how the rabbit comes to be, how it develops into maturity, and, under ideal conditions, when it will reach its end by natural causes. A fox catching the rabbit, while perfectly natural in one sense, is not the sort of natural cause we have in mind here. Rather, what we mean is what a natural philosopher seeks to capture with the concept of a life span for the species.

If the reports in the old testament are taken literally, then some humans had much longer life spans than any kine I have come across. But I have taken hale and healthy specimens and kept them from disease and danger, fed them and kept them well, and still seen them pass on well under a century on this earth.

I suppose you are correct that I cannot say with certainty that our kind would not eventually succumb to a similar fate, but the evidence I have come across tends to support the view that we are a thing apart from other living beings in this respect. My clan, of course, shows our age to some extent, in a way that others do not; yet the vitality of our eldest members does not seem to be in any way effected by this outward appearance of decay. Cainites have lived for millenia without appearing to take on any afflictions of age or frailty and weakness (in fact, the elders appear to be among the strongest among us, though that seems to be more closely linked to generation than with their years under the curse).

The form of a cainite; the design plan for us, seems to lack anything like the ensured frailty attending other living beings. Our natural life-span is unending. At least, the evidence so far points this way. Perhaps several millenia from now, we will see the first signs of old age and frailty in the oldest of our kind, even if they are well fed and avoid other sources of harm?

And, yes yes, of course, the blood plays a significant role in this. We must ask: how is it that the same blood which flows through the veins of the kine, does not make them weak against the sun, but instills this weakness in us? Does not empower them perform supernatural feats, but does so for us? Does not divert them from the trajectory of death, but takes us off of the natural path towards death.

By what physical alchemy is that blood transmuted to vitae? And from where did we acquire the power to do so? It is one thing to say that it is the gift and curse of Caine, passed on with the embrace, but that does not tell us how it occurs. When Moses parted the seas, it could have been direct divine intervention—the hand of God—or it could have been that God pre-arranged the right combination of winds at that time. I do not think that each Cainite's feeding is accompanied by an individual miracle, so I am curious about the mechanisms of vitae.

And, of course, I should be clear: as we lack unbounded immortality, the fact that our life-spans are unbounded signals only that each and every cainite will eventually meet their end through some unnatural means or other. Death will come for us all. The kine's lives are like the flight of a dove; unable to stay aloft forever, they must eventually settle into a rest on their own. We, on the other hand, could hover in the skies unendingly, except that, at some point, each and every one of us will be plucked violently from the skies and rent into pieces.

Dominic's voice remains calm and even for the entire duration of this discussion.
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Wed Jan 27, 2016 5:33 pm

And perhaps in this I have an advantage from my travels and my duties to the Church. I have seen many things that maybe you have not.

You ask why we are able to use the blood thus and the mortals are not? I say the mortals are able to use it just as we are. Not most, this is true, but some. And even those that do not have the gift benefit from the life giving properties. Their very lives stem from a wellspring of the bloody humor. When they are wounded they heal, as if by magic. It may be slower than we can will it to be, but that is a matter of potency, not ability.

Are you familiar with the druidic blood mages who once walked these lands? Mortals who had untapped the hidden secrets of the blood to empower their devilry. Bloody sacrifice. Burnt offerings. The taking of blood and even life for power is well establish among the mortals. For them, it is simply a different way of tapping that power which so quickens our bodies.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Wed Jan 27, 2016 5:44 pm

And while I think that is a question worth answering, I realize it sidesteps your question. but your ideal form of a rabbit does not apply to all creatures. Men and cainites who come from men have souls. We cannot be compared with the animals who were created as a beast of burden to be ruled over by men.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Guest on Wed Jan 27, 2016 9:24 pm

Marius clears his throat.

"On the subject of animals and their souls or lack thereof I have no words, but on the subject of vitae I have much insight to offer. His Grace is absolutely correct in that mortals do have the capacity for manipulation of the power of blood, they merely do not develop that ability without the influence of the supernatural. I know this for fact, not conjecture. My erstwhile clan has made the study of such things a priority, and indeed has bred several lines of Kine who in fact generate their own vitae within their bodies without feeding. The Tzimisce call them Revenants. They are mortal, but their lifespans are massively increased and they gain the same resilience, abilities, and gifts as our kind. Indeed, most even develop their own particular group of Disciplines, which their progeny possess as well. I have long held the belief that this capacity is within all humans, but requires the careful shepherding of a being aware of the latent power of vitae to bring it to the fore."

With a shrug, Marius turns to Dominic.

"Should you desire further research on the subject of vitae in mortals, and are willing to commit to your subject coming to no harm, physical or mental, I would be happy to introduce you to one of my retainers."

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Fri Jan 29, 2016 3:59 pm

Your Grace, a minor point: I am by no means an expert in matters of theology, but I believe the hebrew text of the old testament is better translated as granting men "stewardship" over the other animals rather than dominion over them. A subtle, but significant difference.

As to your more central point: that men and Cainites have souls, while animals do not; I know that, as with most points of doctrine, there are disagreements, but Aquinas's position, which appears to be favored by the Church, is that all living things have souls (in fact, his souls and Aristotle's forms are substantially alike); men and cainites would differ from brutes in possessing intellective or rational souls, rather than merely appetitive and vegetative souls. We are special not for the bare having of souls, but because of the type of souls we have.

(OOC: I am not ignoring the druid question, I have to inquire with STs to find out how much I would know about them, if anything, but fortunately forum time is flexible)
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Fri Jan 29, 2016 4:10 pm

Father Marius, I may take you up on that offer at some point, and I appreciate it greatly. I will have to determine whether there are experiments worth performing that I could perform under the strictures you have indicated, however, before it would make sense to accept your proposal. Perhaps if you had any retainers who were nearing the natural end of their extended lifespans, and I could observe them in hospice, offering palliative care and comfort...and then I might also want some records of their performance on various physical and mental tasks—safe of course—just to compare the degrees of enhancement available, in relation to the generations of cultivation....I should be able to devise some worthwhile studies in this neighborhood, but it will take some time, and I would want to submit the plans for your approval before making any arrangements, to ensure that nothing I have planned would run contrary to your wishes.

I have ghouls myself, so I am aware that mortals can be enhanced. I was not fully aware of the capacity you describe these Revenants to possess, but I still suspect a rather sharp cleave between the improvements available to mortals and the removal of a fixed lifespan that seems to accompany the embrace.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Guest on Fri Jan 29, 2016 4:15 pm

To the best of my knowledge, Revenants are gifted with effective immortality. They do not die of natural causes. I have personally met one who claimed to have seen over nine centuries of life. As I said, they actually constantly produce vitae within their bodies, and there seems to be no limit to how long they can do this for, as long as they are not killed. They Ghoul themselves, forever.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Fri Jan 29, 2016 5:31 pm

Then let us speak not of theology, but of practicality.

I have seen firsthand the souls of men that wander on after death. By all accounts there has never been such an animal soul. Perhaps they have something that might be akin to a soul, but if so it is not as ours is. And having seen no evidence for such a soul I cannot assume that animals have such. Though that is an interesting question, should more information be available.

However this is all delving into matters that skirt the original question. I understand the nature of your studies. I can certainly see that this is something that involves much of your time and effort. What I am curious about is how this pursuit of lore serves as a true morality. At what point did academic research itself move beyond a science and turn into a philosophy or faith capable of keeping the beast at bay?

As I said, I am quit fond of sailing, but I do not believe that a study of the practice would do anything to keep the beast at bay. And if it is only a degree of passion, then would not the toreador be able to invoke their chosen art in defense against the beast?
What element am I missing in this? How has the pursuit of this knowledge gained such a profundity for you?

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Mon Feb 22, 2016 2:41 pm

Your Grace, you inquire as to when academic research transformed into a true morality and acquired the capacity to keep the beast at bay, but here I fear we may be mingling two questions that are best kept separated.

For it is clear that there are a great variety of roads we Cainites walk—most of which evidently aid the travelers who faithfully follow them in their efforts to quell the beast—but whether all such roads merit consideration as a true morality is another question.

If by "morality" you mean to demarcate a guiding project that aims to help a Cainite imbue their life with meaning, then I think it is uncontroversial how such a central project of, focus on, and pursuit of, academic scholarship would aptly meet this criterion, and while I do not wish to besmirch sailing or other such hobbies, I do not think that a passion for some such recreation—at least, in the forms I have most often seen them—would meet even this standard.

If, on the other hand, you have a stricter notion of morality in mind, such as the Church fathers mean when speaking of Christian virtues and the dictates of conscience, then I think it is a much more intricate and difficult matter to assess whether the road of bones would satisfy the constraints. Then, your Grace, it appears that you asking me to answer Father Tertullian's question: "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?"

If you will permit the quoting of learned heathens, I will aver to Maimonedes on this matter, who insisted that the almighty does not demand blind obedience from beings to whom he has granted rational souls. Rather, we must appreciate t’amei ha-mitzvot—the reasons for the commandments. Put simply, knowledge is a fundamental prerequisite of both intellectual and ethical virtue. I follow the incisive thinker in this regard; God does not waste his gifts to creation. We are not given rational souls to waste them; but rather to use them in developing out understanding of the world, and better navigating it. This is perhaps the most fundamental moral precept of all. Though perhaps my enthusiasm takes me too far on this last remark.
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Mon Feb 22, 2016 2:55 pm

I see.

No, I was not speaking of any sort of greater morals. God's law does not necessarily factor into that of the Roads.

You may be right about my hobbies not meeting the prerequisite level of focus you have for your studies, but I already acknowledged this. If your passion for the study of death is what separates it from my hobby, then what of the Toreador who spends their entire unlife in pursuit of perfecting their art. How does this differ from your studies? My love of sailing may not compare, but I daresay the true Toreador artiste has a passion that eclipses what I have seen from most who walk your path.

I do not doubt the value of your Road, please to not misunderstand. I am simply not as familiar with it, and I find it strange that a pursuit of intellect can contain the Beast, which is an entirely passionate force.

Perhaps you could share with me some of the ethics of your Road. Other than learning, what dedications and beliefs does your ilk hold?

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Mon Feb 22, 2016 3:39 pm

It is not merely the passion, but that the road provides an organizing principle and philosophy for one's life.

The beast vies for control over a cainite and their behavior. For most Cainites, refuge against the beast comes from having something to center their mind and soul on, to provide order and meaning to their life. I am not an expert on Toreadors, and cannot speak to why none walk a road rooted in the meditative practice of their arts (if indeed none do; perhaps they do and prefer to keep that to themselves). Perhaps their tendencies to become ensorcelled by exceptional artworks and performances would interfere too much in organizing the stability and refuge from the beast around such a pursuit? I would be curious to investigate the full variety of ways that Cainites work to subdue and quell the beasts within, though many of our kind seem to cherish their privacy to an extent that would foreclose such investigations.

To your precise question, though, the central ethos of this road is forbearance of preventing the occurrence of death. Now, this is, as you might guess, a more difficult matter to adjudicate that it would at first seem: does delaying a death count as prevention? surely not in all cases. But, in a sense, what does the most talented surgeon or doctor among the kine do, besides delay an inevitable death.

Now, this is not to say that one can weasel one's way out of the general strictures put in place by this core tenet through sophistry and semantics; the point is merely this: what might appear to be an act of prevention, from one perspective, may or may not qualify as prevention of death, depending on the details and circumstances in which it occurs.

Following closely are strictures against giving in to emotion and exhibiting compassion, both of which, presumably, interfere with rational reflection and study, as well as being, for most of us, intimately connected to the beast's hold over us.

Our ideal is that of the stoic sage, dispassionate, rational, and sanguine about our fate: whether it seem to be ill or good, which is why I also dedicate studies to the classical Greek Stoics, the Romans such as Marcus Aurelius, and, of course, the esoteric writings of Maimonedes.
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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Simon Molendinarius on Mon Feb 22, 2016 3:51 pm

Interesting. So emotion is considered as a negative aspect? Indeed, as I have just said, the Beast is a passionate entity. To deny the passions may well deny it voice. I would be interested to hear you debate a follower of Via Peccati.

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Re: The Path of Bones: Knowledge is Power

Post by Brother Dominic on Mon Feb 22, 2016 4:20 pm

A debate seems to me an odd way to frame it. From a practical perspective, Via Peccati works for those who follow it, as does Via Bestiae.

While I might take issue with elements of how followers of Peccati or Bestiae wrestle with their demons—and from what I know of Peccati, there is much to take issue with in the behavior of many of its followers—the efficacy of those roads as methods of quelling the beast is not up for debate.

What is more intriguing to me is the question of why different paths work for different Cainites. Is it that the beast manifests differently for each of us, some beasts quelled by straight-on confrontation and taming, others by muting the passions, and others yet by self-indulgence? Or is it the soul that differs: scholars seeking refuge in scholarship, barbarians taming the beast through feral individualism, and sinners through constant deluge of distractions and indulgences?

My suspicion is that it is more nuanced; a confluence of variations in the beast and variations in the Cainite themselves.
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