Religion in Vajhoros, V. e.

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.

Religion in Vajhoros, V. c.

The Empire

The Empire is a not only a political organisation but a religious one, chiefly because politics itself is an expression of religion under Six Caravans. Through good governance, it enables people to fulfil their desires. Through the law, it reinforces morality.

Morality is important for three reasons: as a universal code, it erodes provukă; as a code that protects, it enables all to fulfil their desires; and as a code that obstructs and chastens, it teaches constancy and moderation. The law is not always moral, but it is as close an analogue to morality as can be achieved.

The Empire is also responsible for overseeing and protecting all the other Caravans to attenuating tsaien.

The Family

The family exists to protect and nurture children, and for the period of childhood an individual is entirely dependent on their parents not only for physical well-being but also for their spiritual advancement. The parents have a responsibility to impart morality, constancy, piety, and knowledge of the saints. In return, the love and devotion of a parent or grandparent for their child brings them closer to weakening provukă.

Mvavaskantolkomtas

The monastery is organisationally part of the Shonimô, but its intent is different – where the Shonimô aims to improve the public, the monastery improves its own members. Here, through rigid internal laws and the exclusion of the chaotic external world, monks may more easily weaken their provukă and learn constancy. Monasteries are forbidden from holding slaves or allowing lay brethren, in order to weaken their political and economic power. They have, however, two degrees: the inner core of self-governing monks and a periphery of talnam, ‘disciples’, who are bound to serve the monks as a child obeys their parents, for a span of years, or even for an entire lifetime.

In general, only the wealthiest and most powerful families may enter a member into a monastery, although the institution also serves a punitive role: those facing stern legal penalties (particularly execution) may escape them by entering a monastery.

To symbolise monasticism, the monks are usually branded on their face, and may have their noses removed. Leaving a monastery carries the death sentence. It is only available for men.

Vasjaktemnas

The talking group was recognised as a Caravan in part to appease anti-church elements hostile to monasteries, and in part to recognise changes both in society and in the church. At the same time as the church was building larger and larger cathedrals, focusing on mass abnegation, so too the literate and independent class was growing in size and importance. Such people no longer wished to be entirely led by the church, and the church no longer had the resources to do so, and thus some parts of the responsibility of the church were given to the people themselves.

The talking group is a group of devotees who gather to discuss themselves. Through confession to the group, people are brought to morality through shame, and to a greater understanding of their own repressed desires. Through discussion, dilemmas in life can be resolved, and desires fulfilled or dissolved. The dissolution of desires (which may be performed by clergy as well as talking groups) involves determining the underlying nature of a desire, behind the specifics, and is used when a desire cannot practically, or morally, be accomplished. For instance, a woman may show distress as a result of a repressed desire from a past life that her children prosper. This desire cannot be met – those children are long since dead – but it can be dissolved: once the desire is recognised, it can be replaced (if provukă is sufficiently weakened) by the analogous desire that her own current (or future) children prosper, as the desire that descendents prosper is the core of the specific desire. Meanwhile, by hearing the intimate stories of others confidentially, an individual can awake to greater empathy.

The talking group is not entirely independent from the Shonimô – by law, each group must have present at least one trained ‘advisor’ clergyman, and they are usually created by, and hosted by, a local shuni. Commonly, membership is determined by patron saint; in this way a single talking group can involve people of many social backgrounds.

Other Caravans

Six Caravans, despite its name, does not claim that there are only six caravans for the kingdom of attenuation – rather, it insists on the legitimacy and importance of those six, which act as models for other relationships. In general, any disciplining, educative or non-self-focused relationship or institution may be seen as beneficial, even if not of equal status with the acknowledged Caravans.

Religion in Vajhoros, V. b.

Six Caravans School

Six Caravans recognises the four caravans originally made explicit in the Four Caravans Edict as well as two more made explicit during the Aquien Reforms. The six caravans are: the ikôda (“icon”), the shonimô (“church”), the family, the Empire, the mvavaskantolkomtas (“monastery”) and the vasjaktemnas (“talking group”).

Ikôda

An icon, or ikôda, is a tool for the sokurmas of a tulmăn. Most commonly it is a depiction of the saint in question – a painting, relief carving, occasionally a sculpture – although it may sometimes be a relic of their life. It calls the attention of the tulmăn toward the devotee, and by showing respect and devotion to the icon devotion can be shown to the tulmăn itself. This provokes the saint to act on behalf of the devotee.

Icons are held to be a caravan toward three cities: devotion to the icon weakens provukă; the saint has the power to alter the devotee’s spirit in a way that eliminates or prevents unnecessary eribarkam; and by influencing the spirits of others, and by calming or controlling malign shojkam, the saint can bring material success to the devotee.

In formal theology, and in the more philosophical strains of thought common in the upper echelons of society, the role of icons is downplayed – it is recognised that their aid is unpredictable and the devotion required considerable. In popular religion, however, icons are central to everyday practice. No element of life is free from icons. Any building has icons over its doors; every hearth and dinner table, every office desk, has an icon. All the more important possessions are protected by icons. An individual will likely carry half a dozen icons at least; women, many more.

The choice of icon operates along two principles: one henotheistic, one polytheistic. The former begins at birth, when by calendrical calculations each child is allotted a patron saint to appeal to; later in life, an individual may change their patron to a saint they feel personally connected to. The second principle is one of portfolio, in which particular saints are appealed to in particular cases – certain saints are connected to cookery, for instance, and hence their icons will appear at hearths, while others are connected to swords, dogs, sea travel, prostitution, conception, blight, fair weather, gambling, rats, prosecution, road-laying and so forth. It is likely that for any subject a handful of conceivably-relevant saints could be named, often varying with geographic region.

Icons themselves can be divided into the devotional (seen in churches, or in bedchambers), to which full devotion is given, the protective (placed on or over anything for a general protection from harm or failure) which are rarely more than kept clean, and the invocational, to which quick prayers are said in time of trouble.

The manner of devotion is not prescribed, but there are several common elements, which may be divided into the preparatory, the exterior, and the inner. To prepare for devotion, the devotee must keep the icon clean, place themselves in a posture that is conducive to abnegation (commonly protestation or kneeling) and avoid any sources of distraction – they should not be afflicted through the sense, or be subject to hunger or lust. The exterior component of devotion is seen through physical contact with the icon and through symbolic sacrifice, often of alcohol or of a burning candle. The interior component is primarily thinking favourably of the saint, and often comparing the saint’s life to the devotee’s own life. It may also feature communication with the saint, particularly the asking of favours and the making of promises.

Shonimô

The Shonimô is the established church organisation of the Empire. It consists of a great many shoniam, ‘cults’, responsible to a small number of ankraonam, ‘metropolitans’. Cults are divisible into makshoniam, ‘small cults’ and vepshoniam, ‘big cults’. The former are responsible for minor shrines, and are usually devoted to a single saint; the latter are responsible for cathedrals, vepshonivarkoam.

The chief importance of the vepshonivarko is as a venue for weekly acts of mass abnegation. In these, devotees enter into the building, remove their clothes, cover themselves in ashes, and lie on the floor for periods of time, interrupted by bouts of kneeling. During this time, a leader will preach their inadequacy and the folly of the human race, illustrated through recent public news. At the end, they are washed clean through immersion. Abnegation is not, as may be thought, an activity designed to produce guilt, but rather a method for weakening provukă, the self-concept, by demonstrating both the weakness (and hence transience) of human flesh and also the fundamental unity of mankind, and the unity of mankind with other living animals. It is a small dose of humiliation to pierce the walls of vanity and delusion that maintain provukă.

Shoniam also provide icons for public devotion, and have an important educative facility, teaching the public about the lives of the saints. As the saints were real people with real lives, their stories act as illustrations of good (or bad) principles in life, and make people more able to fulfil their desires, and to attain the constancy that prevents the creation of unnecessary desires. They also provide experts to advise individuals on morality and prudence.

All shoniam are subsidiary to and supervised by an ankraon, or else they are illegal. There are perhaps a dozen ankraonam in total, with the same word being used for the individual, the authority, and the physical vepshonivarkoam that acts as their seat. No ankraon can exist without the license of the Emperor, and that license may be revoked. Each ankraon is responsible for its own employees, but they are also joined together in the Camera, which has the ultimate religious authority. The Shonimô has sole jurisdiction over crimes of heresy and apostasy, and over clergy throughout the Empire. The jurisdiction of the ankraon is not geographic, but rather, as the name suggests, an authority of founder over founded, with the link usually reflecting the origin of conquering armies, or the favourite cults of founding governors.

Those who feel a vocation toward the priesthood serve for a span of years as talna (sworn slave, legally a child) to a shonikonat (elder of a shoni), before becoming a shoniket (brother in the shoni). The shoniketam retain their status for life, though they do not always remain in a religious role until death. A shoniketam belongs to one shoni only, though they may move from one to another. The shoniketam of each shoni elect their own shonikonatam – in the case of makshoniam, these may be sole governing figures, but in the case of vepshoniam they are in essence a board of governors. In addition to their administrative role, they have an important function in society, acting as ‘councillors’ or ‘chaplains’ to aristocratic families and to vasjaktemnam. From the shonikonatam, the ankraon selects a dushoniari, the chief official. The shonikonatam of the ankraon (who have usually served as shonikonatam, if not dushoniari, themselves) select the new ankraon.

Religion in Vajhoros, V. a.

Movolkasproagmăthe kingdom of attenuation – An Introduction

In modern mainstream religion, movolkasproagmă is the main emphasis. The great majority of people practice one of three schools of this kingdom: Tajhuônănjioka (“Six Caravans School”, the orthodoxy), Tajhuôkemjioka (“One Caravan School”) or Tajhuôvotjioka (“Four Caravans School”), all three of which are closely related and often referred to collectively as Tajhuôjioka, “School of the Caravan”).

For Tajhuôjioka, the aim of attenuating tsaien is to be accomplished through self-improvement. At root, tsaien arises because the incorporeal spirit is filled with desires it cannot attain without a body. These desires accumulate through generations, because a desire unattained does not dissolve, but lingers perpetually. These desires are then inherited by new incarnations as ill-formed, instinctual desires that bring frustration and bad faith. In order to attenuate tsaien, these desires must be first brought forth and interpreted and then fulfilled or dissolved. At the same time, new desires must be of a kind that will not linger unfulfillably beyond death.

Desires (or more properly ‘willings’) it may be said, are of three kinds: the kind that cannot be fulfilled; the kind that can be fulfilled with a body but not without one; and the kind that can be fulfilled even without a body. Any desire that is limited by any form of provukă, self-concept, that is dependent on a perception of body or mind is inevitably of the second kind, which are called eribarkam, ‘fields’, after a popular board game – the meaning is essentially ‘hostages to fate’. It is impossible to avoid willing, but it is better if willing is more commonly selfless, as selfless willing is less likely to go unfulfilled after death. In particular, empathy enables individuals to have wills that are not self-centred: “for me to have money” is entirely self-focused, and entirely unobtainable after death; “for my children and their children to have money” is less self-focused, and can be satisfied posthumously, at least for the next few generations; “for my nation to prosper” is even more general, and can be satisfied for even longer after death; “for humanity to endure” is more general still. By weakening provukă, individuals can shift the balance of their willing toward these more general, universally achievable goals.

Within the kingdom of attenuation, then, several ‘cities’, or objectives, may be determined: knowledge of one’s own inherited desires; weakening provukă to avoid eribarkam; avoiding the creation of unnecessary eribarkam; and fulfilling or dissolving as many eribarkam as possible before death. These objectives may be reached in several ways, which is phrased as a choice between different ‘caravans’ setting out for the same cities, taking different routes.

Religion in Vajhoros, iv

Pentarshasproagmă – the kingdom of incarnation

Theory

During vrtaikă, a great pain of tsaien is experienced. It is therefore rational to seek to reduce the duration of vrtaikă, by increasing one’s ability to reincarnate. Parents, meanwhile, wish to have their children inhabited by superior spirits. From both sides of the equation, then, there is a demand for more control over the incarnation process.

Incarnation is an unclear affair. There appear to be four key elements: calling a spirit to a body (sokurmas); an affinity (vrbultas) between a new body and a spirit; expertise (inshagamtô); and the intervention of a tulmăn.

Sokurmas rests on the ability of spirits to hear without physical bounds – one spirit can hear everything on the planet. They are, however, assailed by a great many sounds, and so sokurmas depends upon finding distinctive sounds.

Vrbultas is mostly a matter of genetics, but also involves ideas of sympathy between mother and child – by shaping her body and mind (which is considered part of the body), she can shape her child into an appropriate shape for a particular spirit. Moreover, the egg is altered directly in the womb by the father, who in the moment of orgasm temporarily distorts his provukă, becoming a momentary shojkă, changing the physical nature of the woman’s eggs. He, she, or a third participant may interfere in this process to call a better spirit to the new body.

Inshagamtô is simply knowledge possessed by the spirit seeking to be incarnated. However, the nature of this knowledge is problematic, as it can depend neither on the mind nor on the body, both of which are material and hence absent in the incorporeal spirit. That this knowledge is not retained after death is evident from the fact that children must learn it all again. What is known to the spirit, therefore, is what can be known to a child without learning, which is broadly what we might call ‘instinct’. As instinct is a practical faculty, it must have originated in previous lives. Hence it can be seen that experience in one life can translate into instinctive knowledge in the next – a child flinches from fire or is afraid of large growling dogs or repulsed by unclean food because in previous lives it has learnt that these things are dangerous. This is considered to operate through a ‘shaping’ or ‘mirroring’ principle – the body’s actions shape the spirit. This likewise accounts for why some children are particularly talented in certain areas – they have learned the skills before, and simply have to learn how to apply them with their new body and mind.

In the case of incarnation inshagamtô, however, the body cannot shape the spirit directly, because the body cannot incarnate. Nor, for that matter, can the mind. However, it is observed that certain mental things, such as words, may stand in place of other mental things, such as thoughts, and some believe that certain mental actions may likewise act as analogues to spiritual actions, such as incarnation. This process is known as vrmainas, ‘mirroring’.

Tokônivôas, ‘intervention’, is the process by which a tulmăn exerts pakvas over the spirits fighting for a particular incarnation to favour one spirit over another. It cannot be controlled, but may be besought of a particular tulmăn through devotions.

Practice

The practice of pentarshasproagmă varies exceedingly widely between groups. There are in general three types of groups involved: ordinary religious institutions; Shahal cults; and lineage cults.

Lineage cults are repositories of inshagamtô – when a master dies, they are swiftly reincarnated in a new body, often of a direct descendent born soon after their death, sometimes instead the child of a disciple. Through esoteric mantras, inshagamtô is transferred from master to disciple, and from disciple to novice – novitiate is an institution for those not born with considerable inshagamtô, and exists to prepare them for disciplehood in a future life. These cults often teach mothers practices to shape their babies into a form that can receive a dead master: if the master had a limp, mothers are encouraged to limp, if the master was tall, mothers wear high shoes; if the master liked morning walks, mothers take morning walks.

For many lineage cults, procreation is particularly significant. Various medicines are often given to fathers to encourage anorgasmic ejaculation, so that the father is unable to shape the eggs of the mother, as that would encourage his ancestors to incarnate in his child, rather than a master of the lineage. Instead, a living master may observe the procreation and himself reach orgasm in order to shape the woman’s eggs. In some cases, semen is given particular reverence, as a material receptacle for a fragment of spirit, and it may be used for ingestion or anointing – not only to warp eggs but also because as a receptacle of spirit it may be a receptacle for inshagamtô: by imbuing his semen with his inshagamtô, a master may transfer it to a disciple without mantras. Furthermore, some cults consider the egg-warping act of male orgasm as essentially similar to the act of incarnation itself, and hence impart inshagamtô through encouraging tantric sex practices.

Both lineage cults and the mainstream church may practice sokurmas, with two purposes: to bring about the incarnation of beloved dead into new bodies, and for parents to bring a powerful and admirable spirit into a newborn. The process essentially involves the chanting or reciting of words and mantras that have particular significance for the spirit being called, such as their name, the names of loved ones, the names of places significant to them, or recitations of their deeds. These things are often accompanied with the chiming of bells, tuned esoterically to represent the name of the spirit.

Mainstream church groups also beseech tokônivôas from the tulmnam through devotions. Other groups, called Shahal cults, teach that certain tulmnam are willing to transform the eggs of a woman into their own image, so that their relatives may incarnate in the newborn. When those tulmnam were powerful kings of ancient lineages, this is greatly desirable to the parents. Moreover, such incarnations often carry the supposition of freedom from political control – no modern ruler has any authority over these heroic monarchs and their families.

Status

Sokurmas and tokônivôas are mainstream practices, incorporated into the rituals of death and birth. Inshagamtô lineages are in general deprecated as a waste of time, and often as obscurantist or manipulative – but they are powerful in remote rural areas, and growing in popularity in the cities. Shahal groups are forbidden under pain of death, due to their historically divisive nature, having encouraged several rebellions; nonetheless, they continue to exist in secret.

Religion in Vajhoros, III

Shojkasproagmă – the kingdom of sorcery

Theory

The shojkă is no less significant for Vajhorans than the tulmăn, performing the vital role of explaining the existence of evil. Incoporeal spirits, shojkam vent their pain during vrtaikă through inflicting pain on others by the use of preternatural powers. They vary in power from minor poltergeists to spirits that wreak enormous natural devastation – though the worst calamities are generally blamed on congregations, rather than on a single sorcerer-spirit.

In Vamagmrjioka, becoming a shojkă is simple – by acquiring knowledge of material things, spirits come to be able to incorporate those things in their own provukam, essentially seeing them as replacements for a human body during their period of vrtaikă. Some may form strong bonds to these objects, inhabiting them as living spirits incorporate their bodies – others continue to rove the world, merely using the objects as tools.

It is impossible for a shojkă to incarnate conventionally without relinquishing their attachments to other things – their distorted provukă cannot ‘fit’ into the shape of a human body – yet because such attachments provide a degree of relief from the existential pain (tsaien) of vrtaikă, few shojkam can ever make that sacrifice, and their crutch against pain merely condemns them to eternal suffering.

Theoretically, not all shojkam are evil – and even those that are generally malign may not be universally so, retaining affection for certain people, nations, causes or the like. However, the continuing and increasing pain of vrtaikă drives them all relentlessly in the direction of malignancy.

Practice

Distortion of provukă requires two things – a weakening of provukă and a knowledge of the ‘true name’ of another object (though ‘true name’ is now conceived as more than a simple word). The first can be achieved by anybody in the ordinary course of religious practice, though the extreme weakness required to become a powerful shojkă is unavailable to all but the most diligent. The second factor is obtained through study – not only in life but in death. Many practitioners of Akratkajioka, the ancient school of thought from which Vamagmrjioka ultimately developed, believed that the pain of vrtaikă could be avoided through involvement in the joy of the natural world – spirits would not experience tsaien during vrtaikă because their desires and interests were realigned to focus on gaining knowledge of the world. This is now seen as the route to becoming shojkam.

Most shojkam are minor spirits, and most spirits have the ability to become shojkam if they are not properly educated, obsessing after death on things well known to them in life, such as a particular place or possession. The greater shojkam, however, are far rarer. Many are held to be practitioners of Akratkajioka; others, ancient shamans from before civilisation. There is, moreover, a widespread belief in the existence of shojkainvôgam, “sorcerer-cults”, in which people intentionally acquire the status of shojkă out of a lust for power.

Status

The quest to become a shojkă is a thoroughly discredited quest in Vamagmrjioka, much akin to devil-worship. It is seen as a fundamentally misguided, as well as evil, purpose, and could never be admitted to in public. In general, it serves as an accusation, particularly against those who are too educated, too curious about the world, too willing to engage in science without the supervision of the religious authorities.

Nonetheless, shojkainvôgam do exist, at least in the larger cities, even if their purposes are often more political and social, outlets for discontent and protestations of independence, than they are magical – in general they feature not a desire to become shojkam but a willingness to bear that risk in the pursuit of knowledge.

More common are shojkvôgam: shojka-cults. These occur chiefly in rural areas, where they appease powerful and malicious spirits living in an area. This is not necessarily condemned by the majority – in theory, shojkam can hear humans and can be moved to mercy, or even pacified and reformed, by human appeals. Certainly reason is advised in dealings with the troublesome spirits of the newly-departed, who are likely to be more amenable to debate than older, more dehumanised spirits. However, the cultic practice is deprecated, as in general pandering to evil spirits who have no intention of ever improving themselves.

Religion in Vajhoros, II

Tulmnasproagmă – the kingdom of authority

Theory

A tulmăn, literally ‘authority’, is a spirit that has power over other spirits – this much is acknowledged throughout the vrtaikă religions, but of the nature, causes and significance of this power is given in each a different account.

In Vamagmrjioka, the spirit is seen as an active willing. Like all creation, it is an ’emanation’ of something underlying, on which it depends, and into which it may dissolve if it loses its defining ‘specificity’. An individual spirit is an emanation of a General Spirit, just as the General Spirit is itself an emanation (like Matter) of the underlying reality of creation. Specificity (or kanprotas, “standing apart”) is a feature not of an objective reality but of perception. The material world, continually perceived, is continually subject to specification (kantôunas, “taking and placing apart”), but an incorporeal spirit is kurmnustaj (‘sight-free’), specified only by the spirit itself. In an incorporeal spirit, then, kanprotas is solely the result of mvakantôunas, “self-picking-out”.

For most people, mvakantôunas is not optional. They are compelled to specify themselves in this way as a result of the human “self-concept” (provukă), which divides them from other human spirits. Crucially, provukă also explains the ‘limitation’ of the spirit within a single body – once a body is assumed, the spirit is unable to act on other bodies. One person cannot move another’s hand. This is because there is a close and unique relation between a spirit and a body, but also because one spirit cannot alter the constitution of another – it may alter it’s own nature (and hence its desires, as desire is its nature) but never another’s. This is part of what is meant by provukă – the General Spirit is divided into portions, each of which portion considers itself to be, and hence is, self-governing but never other-governing. When provukă is escaped, a spirit may ‘control’ (technically pakva, ‘grow out’ or ‘form’, the same term as is used of a gardener encouraging plants to grow up along rails or into particular shapes) others, because the self-imposed barrier between them is gone.

A tulmăn must therefore exist at a very particular part of a process. He (or occasionally she) must have renounced provukă successfully, and hence gained the ability to cease mvakantôunas, and they must also be incorporeal (i.e. dead) because otherwise they would be specified by others. However, they must have chosen to continue mvakantôunas – because otherwise they would have dissolved fully into the General Spirit, and would have no will of their own. The tulmân must have independent will and existence in order to exert pakvas, but they must not be bound by or subject to that independence.

Practice

How then may provukă be rejected, and tulmnas be obtained? There are two routes – the slow and the sudden. The slow route involves the gradual destruction of the self-concept through meditation, abnegation and empathy – and this is certainly possible. However, this route is so clearly arduous and unlikely that it cannot account for the plethora of known tulmnam, who must have attained their position by the sudden, and hence fortunate, route.

Tulmnas can be obtained suddenly when an individual undergoes a single moment of total self-disregard, a moment in which there is no self-concept. If this moment occurs at or shortly before death, the state of tulmnas can endure perpetually, with no new sources of self-interest entering in. Others may preserve their state of aprovukă (lack of self-concept) for some time, although often it results in death by starvation. It may be that many people attain aprovukă, only to lose it when they do not die on the spot – it is commonly believed, for instance, that the moment of orgasm grants aprovukă, and that those who die during orgasm become tulmnam.

In general, tulmnam attain their station either through obsession or through sacrifice. In the latter category fall war heroes and others who are willing to throw away their lives for others – although most do not attain this station, finding their thoughts infected by self-concept (perhaps through notions of pride or duty) even at this time. Some suicides are considered to attain aprovukă, where the suicide had no element of self-pity, self-loathing or despair – politicians who commit suicide to avoid harm coming to their families, for instance. In the former category come those few artists and craftsmen who become so devoted to their trade that they lose all thought for themselves, and die in moments of complete involvement.

Status

The tulmăn is immensely important in Vamagmrjioka – yet the attainment of sainthood is not. This is partly for ideological reasons – the pursuit of sainthood is often regarded as disqualifying a person from the attainment of it, if not universally then at least in general. Mostly, however, political motives encourage the downgrading of this goal, in response to the disorder and unrest that has historically arisen from over-powerful saint cults and become-a-saint cults. Emphasis is thus placed on the unpredictability of aprovukă, which no method can guarrentee, and those groups that pursue it in an organised fashion are marginalized. However, in the current religious environment many small such cults are returning to the cities, where they do battle with foreign religions for the spirits of the restless middle classes.