A Path of Reflection

Magic is a poor solution. That isn’t to say it isn’t a solution. That isn’t to say that there aren’t problems that it is necessary and useful to resolve. Rather, that is to say that rarely is magic the best solution.

Briefly consider this, suppose that we lived in a world where everyone was a mage, a magocracy as it were. What a wondrous world that might be. A highly educated world where Earth Mages brought in resources; food, minerals, lumber, and meat with a casual thought and buildings took shape from nothingness. Air Mages might create mechanisms for improved understanding of one another and communication. That world could have Fire Mages which could enable mechanics even Bakara had not previously fathomed. We might make it so that in that world, disease and insanity would be banished with a casual thought, no one would go hungry, and travel would be reliable and fast.

In a world where that magic was casually available, people would not fear it as much. They would understand that magic is a tool which can be used or not and that it is the wielder that is the problem rather than the tool itself. They would understand that those who used and abused their power for their own personal gain would be taken to task and held responsible for their actions.

That is not the world in which we live, as the truth is no where near so positive. People fear mages, not only because of the tools that they wield, but because of what the means by which they acquire those tools says about them. Mages are thought of as those who claim power because they can, for their own ends, at any cost, and that these tools give them the ability to dictate what is right or acceptable. They simply have tools which are beyond the ability of others to contest, or are so indispensable that the cost of doing so feels unacceptable.

People aren’t even wrong to believe those things. It is easy to ascribe the problem to the idea that those who are able to successfully join a guild rarely lack drive or determination, that those who lack such will crumble before their initial testing. The issues though are so much deeper.

Once you have broken through into a guild, time is rarely your own. Someone else will make decisions about what the guild needs from you and you are expected to obey. Some might joke that they could be asked to slay their loved ones, but comments like that come from a place of truth. Even if a guild probably wouldn’t do so directly without knowingly testing their commitment, that is in fact the level of commitment the guild expects. This corrupts one’s ideals, for you aren’t really in control of your life as completely as you might be and so you rationalize behavior you might personally not perform under the guise of being for the greater good or to help the guild along its path. How can those outside an organization like that trust you completely when they know you might be compelled by the guild to act against them or their interests, to betray their secrets, or the like?

If you are bright, you will then have to make decisions about what you want for yourself. Magic teaches people to want control over their environment, to subvert their weaknesses and enhance their strengths; that nothing is beyond their influence and power. For many this drives them to seek rank within the guilds, either to increase that power for themselves and to ensure they have autonomy to encourage others to seek out the particular interests of the mage in question.

Power isn’t a direct relationship to authority within a guild, but as a member of a guild, you have abilities that most do not. As such, you are expected to assist the guild in ways which are beyond what most would be capable of through mundane means. If you are studying magic most of your life, and you have a problem that you cannot resolve with your mundane abilities or would take an exceptionally long period of time or a large number of people, you are inevitably drawn to solve it with magic. If your current skill is not up to that task, you might push yourself to obtain more power. Thus the cycle continues of seeking power to solve problems to meet the demands of others, to gain authority, to obtain autonomy in your life.

We are then left with the fact that in gaining that rank by wresting that power from others who would seek to keep you from it, you will have already taught yourself how to take advantage of the talents of those below you, and so the cycle continues.

The mirage of the guilds is much more sinister than the truth. The Water Temple is foundational for the Sahirim for many reasons, but the most important is the lesson of knowing who you are and walking the path of Atma. Corrupting yourself and your Atma in service to the Temple is in fact a betrayal of the Temple and its ideals. You must make your own choices and follow your own path rather than blindly expecting others to make those decisions for you. Without centering yourself, you are left to float with the current, sucked in by the undertow of power, and will suffer at its whim. Instead you must learn to swim against these eddies.

As someone who lives in the Stragosa valley, it is difficult not to be tempted by the power that magical tools allow. These tools have allowed me to save many lives, and so the cycle continues. Seeking tools to aid those upon their path toward Atma while permitting them the ability to solve the problems for themselves .

Magic is not inherently evil, but giving up your path in its pursuit is to lessen yourself.

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