One Caravan School
Not all acquiesced to the Four Caravans Edict. An iconoclastic clerical faction, most commonly among the incendiary preachers sent to eradicate the native religion of Nalai, rejected what they saw as a populist dilution of their religion, and insisted that there could only ever be one caravan to follow – the caravan of the church. Icons are a superstitious distraction; the empire has no authority without the church; the family cannot guide its children unless it is itself guided by the church. The church, therefore, is the font of all wisdom. As the purpose of the law is to guide toward the attenuation of tsaien in the afterlife, the church is the font of all law.
The organised church, however, has long since been purified of any One Caravan elements; One Caravan considers this fortunate, as the metropolitan system is a tool for control of the church by the Emperor. Indeed, little of the apparent One Caravan ‘church’ has survived persecution. Abnegation is performed in small groups, guided by the presence of a clergyman, usually in private residence. There is no devotion, and much focus is placed on the sermon. The material for sermons is always derived from the writings or words of theologians; becoming a theologian is simply a matter of becoming religiously learned, and being ‘accredited’ by a shoni, which for One Caravan School is an ad hoc assembly of other theologians.
The mystical side of One Caravan is displayed in their practice of solitary abnegation – occurring rarely, in advance of important occasions or to mark some celebration or tragedy, this abnegation may last for hours or days. Penitential fasting is also common. In general, however, One Caravan is a practical, philosophical religion, shorn of the ‘superstitious’ and ceremonial aspects of its sister-faiths. The focus is the philosophical derivation of moral laws. In this derivation, there may be divergences between theologians, and over time several major schools have emerged.
One Caravan School has long been persecuted as a danger to the state, and in many areas it has been destroyed entirely, yet in rural, isolated areas it has survived, and as it has dwindled it has become more tolerated. More moderate theological schools have been able to accommodate obedience to secular authorities, making their sect less politically contentious; their steadfast rejection of superstition has mostly saved them from rural witchhunts. Indeed, they currently enjoy quite a positive reputation, particularly as they gradually migrate to the more liberal cities – they are seen as puritanical, rational and literate. The School is increasingly attractive to the scientifically-minded, and is now common among engineers and bureaucrats.