Four Caravans School
The Four Caravans School recognises the four Caravans recognised in the Four Caravans Edict, but rejects the later Aquien Reforms, including their recognition of two further Caravans. At first, this was all the difference – but centuries without a functioning church hierarchy have caused the religion to shift toward the populist domain of saints.
There are fifteen key articles that distinguish the faith from orthodoxy:
– Tulmnam have the power to take away the pain of tsaien and grant serenity after death.
– Tulmnam can take away any desire, because they can change the spirit as they choose.
– Only tulmnam can remove the repressed willings inherited from former lives.
– All incarnation is decided by deliberation among the tulmnam, and thus represents judgement on grounds of moral purity
– The Shonimô is constituted by all believers; priests are elected from their congregations
– The Shonimô has no purpose but guiding people toward the tulmnam
– In kneeling during abnegation, the both knees are knelt on, with the buttocks touching the feet. In prostration, the buttocks remain on the feet while the head is lowered to the ground. Both hands touch the ground palm down, and the nose must touch the ground. Abnegation must be carried out on soil. Cleansing must not occur until the devotee has returned. During abnegation, interior devotion is performed toward icons. By contrast, in Six Caravans the buttocks may not touch the feet during either kneeling or prostration – in prostration, the devotee lies bodily on the ground, but shields their face from the ground with one hand (palm-down), while the other is between the ground and the heart (palm up), and cleansing always occurs at the abnegation with water that has been offered in devotion to an icon – no interior devotion is to take place during the abnegation.
– In devotion to an icon, it is impermissible to burn any offering, and no offering may be eaten or drunk.
– The patron tulmăn is fixed at birth and may not be changed
– The tulmnam are to be emulated mentally and bodily, not only in general but in particulars, such as in occupation. As a result, the roster of approved tulmnam is far smaller, as many did not lead admirable lives. This emulation usually extends to marriage – a man marries a woman who either has the characteristics of his patron’s wife or who whose patron has those characteristics
– Membership of any other sect or cult is discouraged
– No obscenity (fornication, defecation, use of certain words, eating, killing) may occur before the unobstructed eyes of an icon. Pregnant and menstruating women may not be seen by icons.
– Religious matters may not be voluntarily discussed before anyone who is not known to be a member of the Four Caravans Shonimô. If forced to discuss religion, lying is encouraged
– No one may become a tulmăn without being a member of the Four Caravans Shonimô, with the exception of four ‘Founding Tulmnam‘, who acquired that status independently.
– All sexual contact outside marriage or not for the purposes of procreation is an abomination – controversially, homosexual activities are included in this prohibition.
Four Caravans was once persecuted as a threat to the state, but its remnants are now tolerated officially, if only through apathy – while its practice is a capital crime, prosecutions are rare and discouraged, and the case is difficult to prove. In the cities, their close-knit communities are often commercially successful, and together with their secrecy this can provoke paranoia. In rural areas, the distinction between Four and Six Caravans is not always clear – Sixers often incorporate, at least unofficially, many of the hagiophile beliefs of Fourers, while Fourers often hide their faith through a façade of orthodoxy. Nonetheless, Fourers found in Sixer communities may meet with extreme violence.
Due to the prohibitions on premarital homosexuality, and consequently (real or perceived) higher levels of premarital heterosexual sex, Four Caravans women are generally seen as depraved, deceitful and unclean, and dangerously exciting by the orthodox.