The Church of Mankind
The Church of Mankind is a monotheistic faith that acknowledges humankind itself as intrinsically holy and innately perfect. A form of divine humanism, the Church of Mankind primarily espouses a brotherhood of all humankind toward a common purpose of a perfect human world. The Church of Mankind teaches that mankind is the literal physical embodiment of the Almighty Lord God of Creation, and that each human being shares a single common spirit.
Benalus was the king of Lethia, the temple city of the ancient world during the Age of Heroes. Upon being inspired with the idea that there is only one true God, the callow young king was exiled by the powerful priests of the innumerable religions that his message would disempower. Forced to flee into the eastern desert of Sha’ra, he returned wearing the pelt of a white desert lion a changed man, and proceeded to wage war upon the powers of the world.
Benalus’ war, the Eschaton, was about overthrowing the false religions of the ancient world and breaking the power of the cults which governed it. In the ancient world of the Age of Heroes, slavery by kings and cults was the societal norm to which Benalus’ message of a single almighty God and humanity’s role as a divine brotherhood was incompatible. Benalus freed slaves wherever he found them, recruiting more and more of these Manumit soldiers into his army in a great fire that set the world ablaze with war. In the end, Benalus was defeated at a final battle near the slave city of Hacona by a collected force of the greatest powers of that age – many of which would go on to rule the shattered world during the coming Age of Witchkings.
The Church of Mankind would later grow out of his teachings, forming the basis of the Lion Age, named after the white lion that became his war standard, and the founding of the Throne of God on Earth. The Church of Mankind now is the only acceptable religion for the vast majority of humankind, united under the ideals of the Throne, with only a few last holdouts in the far reaches of the world.
Benalus is not considered to be the object of direct worship in the Church of Mankind, but instead as its Prophet. Benalus, while touched by the divine and exceptionally wise, was an ideal and a teacher who showed mankind the way forward, but the actual pious worship goes to the God that he served.
TENETS OF THE FAITH
Those things with are human are divine, and the culture that humans naturally create through their lives and community are also divine. The world is damaged, however – fundamental aspects of it destroyed by the rebellion of the Triumvirate. The world is thus capable of influencing mankind away from its own divinity, and so vigilance is necessary against alien influences. These influences are obvious in some cases, such as the alien culture of elves, dwarves, orc, or any other non-human culture of the world. It can also come from more esoteric sources, such as the wicked entities of the Maleficarum, or the intervention of daemonic powers.
Humankind labored as slaves of daemonic powers for most of its history before the coming of the Prophet, and only now, in the Lion Age, is working to purge itself of the poisons of an evil world. Many old ways of thinking have to be unlearned in order to achieve the ideals of the Throne, and the Church’s purpose is to guide and steer mankind toward its true path.
THE HOLY ORDERS
The Church’s mission is to reform the world in the image of a holy brotherhood of mankind, to create the new world that Benalus described in his sermons, a throne for God. This is not an ideal or an academic theory. For the priests of the Church of Mankind, this is a massive engineering project unlike the world has ever seen before, and every action they take is a coordinated effort across leagues and nations to shift and steer all human culture toward this end. To be a priest of mankind is to be an ardent, a scientist, a leader, a philosopher, a spy, a warrior, a teacher and a parent, guiding, shaping, and above all, changing the world from imperfect to perfect.
A perfect human world means a perfect humankind, where culture and structure makes the act of sin impossible. A world without wrath must be a world without war, where all mankind is unified under a single “us” with no “thems” remaining. A world without greed means a world where scarcity is banished, where food is plentiful and basic needs are provided for by those around oneself, even as they provide for others.
This holy mission requires incredible foresight and prescience. Priests think and plan in terms of decades, centuries and millennia, trying to account for future inventions and ideas that may shift the culture, and get ahead of those inventions to condition the world to receive them correctly. What will the world be like after an inevitable printing or literacy revolution? What will be the effects of a unified Rogalia? Under which monarch must it unify to ensure a benign reign, and after what other conditions are met to ensure that? How can we advance past rival races like elves or dwarves without adopting their ways and changing who we are? How can a commercial culture like Hestralia be transitioned out of exploitative capitalism? How can we do that while also learning the lessons that Hestralia can teach humanity?
The answers to these questions require centuries of careful planning, and an utter dedication to a resilient and unchanging message in order to resist the mighty cultural forces that have shaped the world up until the Lion Age. Even with all the power of the Church, the challenges of untold future ages and the shepherding of millions of unique souls requires the labor, and the faith, of these dedicated servants of mankind.
The final mission is to people the whole of the earth with human souls, tame every wild land, drive back every shadow with God’s light, and create a unified, perfect mankind. Fertility is valued, as the expansion of humanity and the Throne requires ever greater numbers, and the multiplication of the human spirit is an innately good act.
The Church of Mankind venerates the Master, Hand and Throne, a triune of the three aspects of Mankind. The Master, The Lord God of Creation, is the spiritual greatness and power of humankind, the creative force that expressed itself into the world as humanity. The world, being a physical and finite place, is too “small” to hold the greatness of God in His absolute form, and so humankind is the presence of God as it can be expressed in an earthly configuration.
The Hand, once Benalus, now the Holy Church, is the will of mankind, the essential knowledge of good and evil that forms the basis of relationships between teacher and student, parent and child, right and easy. It is believed that humankind is divinely good by nature, but can be corrupted by the world by ignoring or turning away from the intrinsic goodness of man. The Hand is the collected wisdom and knowledge of Mankind that is passed down hand over hand from one generation to the next in order to exalt each generation to a stronger and stronger expression of God.
The Throne is humanity’s expression of God for God. It is a world made holy though human hands, and is both an idea of progress and eventual perfection. The human nation of the same name is intended to be the literal and metaphorical embodiment of human perfection, and its work-in-progress nature is reflected in the continuing journey of mankind toward collective spiritual perfection. When the one finishes, so too shall the other.
THE SHARED DIVINITY OF MANKIND
Mankind is a single spirit across many souls, and when a person harms another in some way, they are actually doing harm to themselves. Sins against Mankind are sins against one’s own soul, and the perfect world that the Church strives to create will overcome the impulse to see others as other.
Mankind, being inherently unified in spirit, is also equal in spirit, and there are no greater or lesser people. The relic practices of the ancient world to dominate based on cultures, on caste, or on gender are against the mission of the Church, though they have not been totally eliminated from culture yet. In the Throne, women are equally legally able to inherit wealth or position, though in practice males often still hold most positions of official authority, especially among the nobility, though the practice fades more with each generation.
As well, human sexuality, within the sacred bond of marriage, is permitted in whichever way the soul is inspired. Marriage and love is sanctified between any two consenting souls, regardless of sex or gender. Such matched couples are encouraged to use adoption to contribute to the creation and protection of new human life.
Humankind is latently perfect, but in its nascent state is vulnerable to corruption. The Church of Mankind is vigilant against the influence of inhuman elements. There are many non-human cultures in the world, and most are relicts of the Age of Heroes, bestial races like orc, trolls, goblins, though even the existence of such reclusive creatures is hard to prove. Still, while such monsters are dangerous, there is little chance of their influencing humanity with their primitive ways.
More dangerous are those races with mighty cultures and kingdoms, such as the dwarves or the elves, for their ability to transmit their culture to humankind and perhaps set it off course. If mankind were to adopt the ways of another race to cause them to develop in a direction that they would not have ever gone, even eventually, if left to their own development, then in the fullness of time, the final Throne that will be created will be unfit.
The Church investigates new technologies of alien origin and makes a determination of whether they believe mankind would have created the invention on its own, making it safe for adoption. The practice of engineering, black powder, optic lenses, fashion, and others, have been approved for use by humanity, but most aspects of alien culture can never be tolerated. Even more dangerous than alien cultural influence is the possibility of adulteration of the human body, should humankind ever attempt to interbreed with other species. Humanity tolerates some contact with other races, but maintains a wary distance.
In ancient times, Lethia was the city-state from which the prophet Benalus originally hailed, and the city he first ruled once he returned from his journeys. The thousand temples were removed, their idols melted down, their altars broken to make the foundations of the new church.
Sitting in central Gotha, it is the spiritual center of the Throne of God. One of the largest population centers in the world, Lethia is actually an enormous sprawling campus of cathedrals, archives, monasteries, colleges, and housing for thousands of priests, monks, templars, scholars, and lay-officials that make the machinery of the Holy Church work. From here, the Church administers its various holy missions and ministrations throughout the rest of the Throne and the world, guiding the hand of the people toward an end that pleases God and routing out the heretic, the witch, and burning out any wickedness that stains the land.
Lethia is ruled by the Pontifex, Benalus’ spiritual successor, who guides the church which guides humanity. Besides serving as a command and delegation center for agents of the church, it also is a place of great scholarly pursuit and learning. Many of the world’s greatest scholars, archivists, students, and researchers operate out of Lethia, and the city maintains its host of knowledge in giant vault-like libraries throughout the city. The entire city is consecrated ground and each stone of its impressive outer wall is twice blessed. In the eyes of the Church, Lethia is the world’s largest cathedral.
THE ECCLESIARCHAL COVENANTS
In pursuit of its holy orders, the Church has specialized missionary orders called Covenants. These organizations work as semi-autonomous departments of the Church, each responsible for a certain aspect of the holy orders. Priests of Mankind join a single Covenant when they take their vows, and progress in rank and responsibility within that Covenant’s mission, but their rank is considered to be held universally across the entire clergy.
Each Covenant has one of the seven Archangels as their patron, and venerates one of the Exalted Saints, individuals who had some kind of spiritual contact with an Archangel and submit their lives to Their will, being assisted by miracles granted by their patron Archangel. In venerating the Exalted Saint and submitting their lives in service to that Archangel in imitation of the Exalted Saint, the Priest hopes to achieve a spiritual likeness to the Exalted Saint, and thus beg miracles of the Archangel.
The first and most important likeness of the Exalted Saint’s life that a priest must take is the swearing of a Covenant, a sacred and holy oath before God of a certain set of behaviors they must always uphold. Each of the religious orders has a specific Covenant that they ask of their priests. Should the priest break this sacred oath, they sever themselves from the Archangel’s grace in order to not taint Them with their failure, and must atone for their transgression in order to regain their place as a loyal servant.
The Curia Administratus
Aside from the Covenants, the Curia is a body of administrative offices that manage the logistical and official matters of the Holy Church across the Throne. While some members of the Curia have undertaken holy ordination as priests of one of the Covenants, most members of the Curia are laymen who are ardent professionals serving the needs of the ecclesiastical bureaucracy. The Curia collects and manages tithes and donations, manages records of conversions and atonements, sees to the construction of churches, monasteries and cathedrals, manages communication between Holy Lethia and the local cult, and every other kind of logistical task that the Church needs. The Curia operates with the name and authority of the central Church, and provides the necessary administrative governance for the achievement of the Church’s goals.
The Curia has many departments, each overseeing a certain tangible goal of the Administratus, and each of these departments is overseen by one of the Covenants of Priests to ensure that it is meeting the needs of Mankind. The workers in these departments, called clerics, operate the Church’s main apparatus.
Curia Praedium –Manages records, histories, and accounts, and catalogs them in massive scriptoriums. Their goal is to create a total record of all known information in a searchable and referable format to be used in future decision making. Curia Praedium is also in charge of the process of lionizing saints into the official record, and is overseen by the Inquisition.
Curia Militum – While the Templar Order is the official military branch of the Holy Church, the Curia Militum manages its affairs, ensuring that training, military technique, arms and armor, steeds, rations, and other logistical needs of its Templar armies are met, as well as the care of veterans and refugees. Curia Militum is overseen by the Warrior-Priests.
Curia Remidium – The Curia Remidium is in charge of various missions of human resilience, including the study of sacred medicine, the growing of crops and agriculture, access to clean water, and any other factor necessary for the peaceful maintenance of life. Curia Remidium monks often study for advancements in seeds, soil, and infrastructure, and are overseen by the Hospitalier.
Curia Rectus – The office of internal ethics, practices and decisions, Curia Rectus is in charge of honing and judging best procedures for the conducting of Church affairs, as well as lay affairs in non-ecclesiastical affairs. The Curia Rectus conducts studies and makes recommendations about how mundane matters such as trade, travel or construction can be done in a way that benefits the most people, is least costly, and is done without moral issue. Curia Rectus is overseen by the Cyanahim.
Curia Continuitus – The Curia Continuitus is responsible for planning the expansion of mankind’s borders. This means the creation of roads, the conversion of pagan peoples, understanding and planning for the initial challenges as well as a long-term transition plan for a community to become self-sustaining and contributory to the rest of the Throne, able to support yet another expansion in the future. The Curia Continuitus is overseen by the Mendicants.
Curia Integer – While innocence is the default state of mankind, the world is a dangerous place for innocents. The Curia Integer oversees various facilities to aid the dispossessed or helpless. It runs orphanages and schools for the young, especially in areas where war, disease, crime or other causes of widespread loss of life are common. It also runs sanitariums to oversee the spiritual health of those who have been afflicted or possessed by wicked spirits that are resistant to exorcism. Curia Integer is overseen by the Sacrosanctum.
Fortress Monasteries are the centers of advancement for the world, with each monastery having a quantity of monks that are tasked with some specific advancement. Using Logos, a philosophical framework for testing and controlling circumstances, the monks attempt to undergo what is called Experimental Theology, the ever-further attempt to understand and master the world. Each monastery, created and managed by the Curia, is given a specific task or problem for which they must apply the Logos.
Communities are usually in common purpose with its local Fortress Monastery in order to facilitate the purpose of the research, such as a farming community meant to test new agricultural practices, or a coastal port’s shipyards being part of the development of new sails or sextants. Because they deal with sensitive matters of experimental theology, most monasteries are fortified, secure areas, so that the influence of heresy cannot be allowed to interfere with the results of the work. Fortress Monasteries act as secondary fallback points for their communities in times of emergency, though their wards are not allowed in the secure areas where research is being conducted.
The majority of these sites are in Gotha, where the true Cathedrals, often called Vincenzene Cathedrals after Vincenzo di Copalli who built or oversaw the construction of most of them during the lifetime of Benalus, were originally and painstakingly constructed in the manner prescribed by the Gospel of Zuriel. While almost all such cathedrals still stand today, the methods for correctly constructing these places in the manner that most pleases the Lord has been lost, and Cathedrals created after the gospel of Zuriel was lost do not have the same divine radiance as those created before. In most areas outside of Gotha, only the capital cities of each nation and perhaps one or two other sites have a true Vincenzene Cathedral.
These are not the only holy sites, however. Some areas, the sites of miracles, holy events from the Testament of Benalus, and even some few places where the ring of the Lord simply shines through particularly dramatically, may also be treated as holy ground.
Each Covenant has many local cults that venerate a specific Saint, often a local figure that has been lionized by official process by the Curia. Local cults administer to the more specific needs of the local community. A given local cult, while under the patronage of one specific Covenant, often includes priests of several Covenants, as well as clerics, monks, Templar Knights and lay members as befits the needs of the community.
Some small communities have but a single priest, while larger communities have a Superior and several priests under them, while large towns and cities have a Bishop, with perhaps several churches throughout the various districts of the city, each with their own subordinates. Generally the charge of a Bishop includes the entire city and its surrounding small communities, though sometimes, especially in a sparsely populated countryside, a Melandahim Bishop is granted the outside settlements as their bishopric. The largest and most important cities have Archbishops, or even act as the seat of a Cardinal of the Church, who administer entire countries in tight communication with Holy Lethia and the Pontifex.
Local cults usually create civic ritual practices and holidays. The civic rituals are part of the veneration of the Throne, and so are one of the relatively fewer religious services to involve the local nobility as sacred figures. Civic rituals are used in the attainment of higher degrees of citizenship. For instance, a local ritual may be created to tend the beacon fire through winter nights while reciting a litany of prayers and praying upon one’s service to their community and mankind, and those citizens who do so may be awarded an Accolade.
The local Ruler, through the office of the Eparch, decides the value of these rituals, what degrees of citizenship are conveyed and how, and what benefits or responsibilities higher citizenship confers. Most communities have sacred rites for their citizens, and take their sacred value to the community very seriously, seeking to raise to higher degrees of citizenship as both a matter of practical advantage and of personal virtue. For instance, some cities do not allow memberships into local Trade Guilds to citizens below a certain Class, or allows those of a certain Class a different rate of taxation.
Class of Citizenship is always local, within the feudal jurisdiction of the Eparch, though some interconnected communities follow and recognize the same Civic Rites and Accolades.
Holy Knights and the Pontifical State
The two orders of Holy Knights, the Most Vigilant Order of Knights Templar and the Sacred Order of the White Lion, make up the military arm of the Church. While members of the clergy cannot also hold noble title, the Church itself does directly administer land in the region of Gotha around Lethia, called the Gottreich. These lands are governed by a Prince-Bishop, and their citizen levies form the Pontifical Army, commanded by Templars, and fight or support in wars that support the aims of the Church when deemed necessary by the Pontifex.
In more peaceful times, the Templar knights act much as other Knights do, acting as agents and guardians of the Church’s interests, and supporting the aims of the Church proper while defending its clergy. The Templar, far more numerous than the White Lions, oversee these needs as the elite soldiers of the Church, while the White Lions are tasked with a much more abstract mission of going forward into the world to perform heroic good wherever and whenever necessary.
As prototyped in Gotha, where the Church is most powerful and in order to eliminate the influence of Greed, the Church prefers and encourages a non-transactional economy. In Lethia, the church’s many thousands of scribes, students, clerics, priests and soldiers are provided for at no expense. The residents are fed in cafeteria, housed in dormitories, and supplied from commissaries. No coin or transactional exchange is performed, and instead, each resident of Lethia also fulfills the needs of the Church to help its own operations proceed.
Food and goods are made in the Pontifical lands that surround Lethia, shipped into the city for distribution. In turn, the farmers and craftsmen who create them are provided for by Lethia as well. When they need some goods from outside the region, the Church negotiates their arrival, often in coordination of that region’s needs being met, and this pattern extends ever outwards into the rest of the Throne.
At a local level, the cult takes care of its congregation in the same manner. A local man’s roof is leaking, and must be replaced. Rather than asking the Church for money, the man asks the Church for help replacing his roof. The Church asks a local carpenter to help, and notes that the carpenter is overworked, assigning the a local youth to begin to train under the carpenter to learn the trade and ease the workload. The carpenter repairs the leaky roof, at no charge, knowing that he too can have his own needs met through his community. The Church handles the coordination of these resources and needs, interfacing with the local cults of nearby communities, in order to spread their web outward. The extra output, in time, from the second carpenter is sent to the next town over, via the local church branch, and their own shipment of wheat arrives for dispersal.
At a macroeconomic level, the system that the Church organizes looks very much like barter economics, but the lack of transactions and the lack of score-keeping provides the system with an entirely different character. In places like central Gotha where this system is robust and efficient, entire communities live for years without ever handling coinage or formal currency. Coins that do arrive in the system are usually tithed to the Church, who uses them as petty cash where their communities can’t meet some specialized need. The Church has great stores of coinage that it uses for these purposes, though it strives to spend it less and less using community means, until it isn’t required or used at all. In this, the Church’s greatest asset is being the most interconnected and intercommunicating organization in the world.
This model is not followed everywhere. The farther from central Gotha that a community lies, especially in Hestralia, a more transactional model exists. Communities do not put enough trust in the Church to meet their needs, and thus do not participate as eagerly in giving away their own things to meet the needs of others. Unable to meet the needs of the community without such cooperation, the Church in some places charges fees or encourages donations of coin in exchange for its direct services. It takes time, generations even, to establish the necessary trust to transition economies away from capital and investment. Monks of the Curia Rectus continue to study more effective ways to stimulate such transitions.
The Throne was founded in a partnership between Victor von Herkheist and the nascent Church with the understanding that they were working together to fulfill the unfinished mission of Benalus, killed nearly two hundred years earlier. It is a requirement of every place the Throne touches that the religion of Mankind be the one and only acceptable faith, the faith being intrinsic to the functioning and purpose of the Throne. This means that the Church has a degree of actual authority over some matters of governance, and over time this has translated to a body of Ecclesiastical Law.
Ecclesiastical Law is legal authority that is wielded by the clergy to enforce the principles of the faith. Unlike the temporal law enforced by the nobility, ecclesiastical crimes are in terms of the sin that they represent. The killing of another person is a crime of Wrath, not the crime of murder. Because this law applies to all humanity as part of the Throne, it importantly applies to the nobility as well, who are otherwise immune to prosecution from any but another noble, and thus it acts as an important check on their power.
The clergy can convene an ecclesiastical trial and stand in judgment of these crimes at will, though in practice it is used as an intervention over temporal law only for serious or repeated cases. Both orders of Holy Knights are considered to be clergy for the purposes of Ecclesiastical Law.
Ecclesiastical Trial and Censure
Ecclesiastical Trial is used when an egregious sin goes unrepented. If the clergy decides that they need to convene an Ecclesiastical Trial, the accused is called before a body of all of the local clergy. The highest ranked priest from the Covenant most relevant to nature of the crime presides over the trial, and the accused may speak in their own defense, including calling witnesses or offering other forms of evidence.
If the accused is found guilty of the sin, the assembled priests will confer together to decide and demand an appropriate atonement for the sin. Because these atonements are the result of a trial and not the willful submission on the part of the sinner, they are usually extremely public, humiliating or costly for the sinner in question, in order to make an example of them. If the sinner refuses the atonement, they are placed under Censure.
Censure means that the sinner is considered to be officially damned because they are confirmed to have mortal or deadly sin upon their soul, yet are unwilling to seek atonement. No priest anywhere will offer rites or blessings for the Censured sinner, including more normal atonement, until they agree to submit to the church and perform the atonement prescribed in their trial. While this is the end of the formal punishment, the informal power of Censure is enormous. Their Censured status leads to shunning, the abandonment of relationships and alliances, their removal from any organization that doesn’t wish to draw the ire of the Church, and an overall collapse of their social position.