[Updated 23/3/2014 with a picture of a cover of Stars and Time that I drew.]
I have a bit of an odd fondness for philosophy, especially depressing philosophy, despite the fact that I’m generally a very happy person. And so naturally I had to put a good gloomy philosopher in my imaginary world. Here he is!
|Full name||Ŋārin Rīdranos|
|Resting place||Ŋārin Rīdranos Memorial, Atāsŋūn, Ēnssāntaca, Egeld|
|Notable works||War in Heaven and on Earth, Stars and Time, Light and Duty|
|Children||Jwēlosis Ţyēlahēl and Jāne Ţyēlahēl|
Ŋarin Ridranos ([ŋæɾɪn ɾʏdrɑnos]; Egeldish ᑯᒽᒣᑭ ᒣᐢᐃᒣᑭᓀ Ŋārin Rīdranos) was an Egeldish philosopher and priest of Sky during the post-Civil War period. He was the first known writer among the priests of Sky, writing many books on questions of philosophy and religion. Today he is considered one of Egeld’s most famous writers and is frequently read in Egeld and in other countries. His philosophy also laid a foundation for many other Egeldish thinkers, as well as some significant foreign philosophers such as the Jacian Edinek Somioni and the Uniatic Darsius Unarsela.
Ridranos was born in Rīdranos in central Egeld to a family of poor farm workers as the youngest of five children. In 1308, two years after he was born, his father was killed in violent struggles between rival nobles in the area, repercussions of the breaking up of Egeld’s empire. His family then fled to Odetālēne in northern Egeld, where they continued to work as farm laborers. In 1313, when Ridranos was seven years old, his mother died from soskiritis in the 1313 Lufitanthan soskiritis epidemic. Following the usual Egeldish custom for caring for orphans, Ridranos and his brother Arryin were given to the priests of Sky, and his three sisters were given to the priestesses of Earth.
As a priest-in-training, Ridranos studied philosophy, psychology, oration, language, history, mythology and several other fields special to the priests of Sky. From an early age, he showed particular interest in philosophy and psychology. In 1321, when he was 15, a senior priest and, most likely, distinguished philosopher, Odetyis Odetālēne, became interested in Ridranos’s developing ideas and began to mentor him in philosophy. However, probably the biggest influence on Ridranos was his continued relationship with his sisters, now preparing to become priestesses of Earth. From them he learned about science, in particular biology, and various aspects of inventing – all things that priests of Sky generally did not study, being focused on the mind and emotions. He also learned how to read and write and began to write down his ideas, another unusual practice for a priest of Sky. (Priests generally relied entirely on memory and oral passing down of knowledge, while the priestesses of Earth did sometimes write things down.)
Between 1328 and 1337, Ridranos wrote six books: four about philosophy, one about mythology, and one novel. During this time, most of his fellow priests of Sky encouraged his writing. However, the revolution of 1338 changed this. One of the new king’s closest advisors, Hāntis Sūtāca, was a member of an extremely strict order of priests of Sky that forbade priests to study any subjects or practice any skills that were particular to the priestesses of Earth. In 1339, with the king’s support, Sūtāca initiated a campaign to purify the priests of Sky and either punish or remove any who had been pursuing knowledge or skills from the priestesses of Earth. Since Ridranos lived in a fairly small town that was quite some distance away from the new king’s capital, he figured that it would take a while for Sūtāca’s allies to reach him, and indeed suspected that Sūtāca would have been stopped by other priests unhappy with his policies before then. However, one elder of his community, Zanānis Odetālēne, had always been suspicious of Ridranos’s activities, though he had allowed them to continue. But now, fearful that he himself would be punished for allowing Ridranos to study with his sisters and write books, he decided to take action and so maybe gain the respect of Sūtāca’s sect. In late 1339, when Sūtāca’s purge had only been going on for three months, Zanānis stripped Ridranos of his priesthood and imprisoned him for “contempt of the god Sky” and burned his books. When Ridranos’s friends among his fellow priests expressed their anger, Zanānis imprisoned some of them, too.
Zanānis had originally intended to just keep Ridranos in prison for several years, as long as he agreed to give up the offending practices. But when he saw that Sūtāca’s allies were executing priests of Sky for lesser offenses, he became afraid that he had not been proactive enough and went to the local hač to ask for permission to execute Ridranos and a few of his friends. The hač, who had read some of Ridranos’s books and liked his philosophy, stalled and refused to give a straight answer to Zanānis, saying that he needed permission from the higher government to do executions. Then, as Zanānis made plans to travel to a nearby larger city and ask for permission there, the hač covertly warned Ridranos and his friends of Zanānis’s intentions. As Zānanis was traveling two days later, Ridranos and his other imprisoned friends escaped with help from the hač and his few friends that Zānanis had not tried to punish. It was early 1340 and Ridranos was 34 years old.
In exile in Dyenā
Ridranos and his friends fled to Dyenā, a town that was technically within the Egeldish border but which was actually controlled by Latrigle. There, among many other Egeldish refugees who were victims of the civil war or the revolution, Ridranos was free to pursue his studies of philosophy and other subjects. While staying in Dyenā, Ridranos wrote three more books on philosophy and began to write an epic poem in the Lat style, which he later abandoned.
Even before his exile, Ridranos had been beginning to question some of the tenets and practices of the priests of Sky. Now that he had been formally stripped of priesthood, he felt freer to pursue his more unorthodox ideas. Correspondingly, his books from this period of his life show significant deviation from the generally accepted ideas of the priests of Sky. In particular, he began to develop an idea that Sky and Earth, the gods generally worshiped by Egeldish, are actually lesser gods under one great god. Sky and Earth, he said, show fallibility and volatility, and so they can not “sustain the universe” (Stars and Time, part 31). But while humans can communicate with Sky and Earth, since these gods have human flaws (though not to the extent humans do), humans cannot communicate with this great god.
Ridranos finished his first book arguing for this idea, Stars and Time, in 1344. He immediately began work on a second book, Light and Duty, which was meant to explore the practical repercussions of his theory. As Ridranos wrote this book, he began to significantly change his lifestyle. Even during the early years of his exile, he had still identified as a priest of Sky. In early 1345, however, he announced to his friends that he no longer considered himself a priest of Sky; rather, he was a “seeker of light,” somebody trying to find a way to the great god above Sky and Earth. Some of his friends were quite concerned at his proclamation, and they became even more concerned when he married an Egeldish refugee woman, Golene Nywos, in 1346, disregarding the rules against priests or priestesses marrying. One friend, Čāt Odetālēne, returned to Egeld, denounced Ridranos before Sūtāca’s religious council, and was reinstated as a priest of Sky in Odetālēne. Two other friends, Juzwērakyis Odetālēne and Rūdris Zelūtas, publicly broke with him but did not leave Dyenā.
Ridranos continued to stay in Dyenā, hoping to find fellow “seekers of light” among the constant influx of Egeldish refugees. But he had very little success, and by 1349, he felt there was enough animosity against him in Dyenā that he left for Carafilier with his wife.
Ridranos then settled in Fielahél in northern Carafilier, where he worked at a local dye farm while continuing to write on issues of philosophy and religion. In 1350, he finished Light and Duty, and hoping that he might be able to publish it, he traveled to a small university in nearby Cahmier to present it to the professors there. They were very interested in his work and agreed to publish Light and Duty if Ridranos would translate it into Carafilieri. Ridranos’s Carafilieri was very weak, so he hired a young Carafilieri/Azonian man, Esian Yalagroux, who worked with him at the dye farm in Fielahél to help with the translation. As Ridranos and Yalagroux worked on the translation, the university in Cahmier also arranged for Ridranos to give some talks on philosophy to the students there with the aid of an interpreter. Ridranos’s ideas became popular with some of the students, and by 1352, he had a small following of Carafilieri, Degrouxmé, Azonian and Egeldish “seekers of light.” Also in 1350, Ridranos’s son Jwēlosis was born, and in 1352, his daughter Jāne was born.
Ridranos finally finished and published a Carafilieri version of Light and Duty in 1354. Following the book’s publication, a number of other philosophers, scholars and students came to Fielahél to speak with him and sometimes to join his group of “seekers of light.” By 1360, he had a group of about fifty followers. With their help, he translated most of his other works into Carafilieri and published them with the help of the university in Cahmier.
So far, Ridranos had mostly only been known in Carafilier, but then in 1360, Sūtāca died and the government regulation of the orders of Sky and Earth became significantly less strict. In 1361, one of Ridranos’s old friends from his time in Odetālēne, Duggis Rālyos, traveled to Carafilier to visit him. Ridranos gave him some Egeldish copies of Stars and Time and Light and Duty, and when Rālyos returned to Egeld, he shared them with his fellow priests in Odetālēne. One priest, Arryis Odetālēne, wrote a response to Ridranos’s work that detailed a slightly reworked version of his philosophy that fit better with orthodox Egeldish religion. One of Ridranos’s sisters also got a hold of his books and wrote her own response to them. In 1365, Rālyos and Arryis Odetālēne both traveled to Fielahél to urge Ridranos to return to Egeld and start a community of “seekers of light” there. Agreeing to their proposal, in late 1365, Ridranos traveled with his family and his followers to Atāsŋūn, a small town near Odetālēne.
In Atāsŋūn and death
In Atāsŋūn, Ridranos established a community modeled on those of the priests of Earth. He continued to write on philosophy, producing another three books on his ideas, and taught his followers, many of whom wrote down their own ideas. Ridranos also started a small library of philosophical and religious works, inspired by the university library he had seen in Cahmier, and formed a small school where he, Duggis Rālyos, one of his sisters, and one of his followers taught the children of the community as well as children from Atāsŋūn and Odetālēne.
In late 1377, the 71-year-old Ridranos died of soskiritis. He was buried in Atāŋūn, where his grave is now the site of a museum about the community he established there.
Humans, animals and gods
In his early works, Ridranos develops a theory that humans are distinct from animals because they have ðozoŋwur – emotions, will, a tendency to be unpredictable, and a constant desire for more. In his theory, this ðozoŋwur comes from the gods Sky and Earth, who have it in its pure form – human ðozoŋwur, on the other hand, is mixed with animalistic instincts, or lezorān. Later on, Ridranos came to believe in another, greater god above Sky and Earth, who he calls “the Sun” for lack of a better term. In his new, expanded theory, he says that the human conscience, lūtasyā, comes from this great god, who has lūtasyā in its pure form. So then animals have have lezorān, Sky and Earth have pure ðozoŋwur, the great god “the Sun” has pure lūtasyā, and humans have an impure mixture of all three.
Ridranos then explains that humans are naturally unhappy because they are constantly trying to follow and satisfy all three of these aspects, yet lezorān, ðozoŋwur and lūtasyā conflict and so it is impossible to ever fully satisfy all three. Rather, humans should train themselves to primarily seek lūtasyā, because it is the highest of all three. However, while humans can find great joy in their lūtasyā, they can never be fully happy, because they are still tied to lezorān and ðozoŋwur. Indeed, if a human being somehow only ever satisfied lūtasyā and never paid any attention to lezorān and ðozoŋwur, s/he would not actually be fully human. Ridranos writes in part 10 of Light and Duty:
Full humanity can only be achieved by acknowledging all three aspects of being, but balance and happiness can only be achieved by keeping them in their proper hierarchy. Lūtasyā should always be first priority; next ðozoŋwur; last lezorān. The good, happy, and fully human man will put his conscience above his emotions and both above his instinct, but he will listen closely to all three.– Ŋarin Ridranos, Light and Duty, part 10
Human depravity and ambition
Ridranos writes, primarily in Stars and Time, that all human evil ultimately stems from one flaw: ambition, which comes from the ðozoŋwur part of human nature. This is the flaw that makes humans wish to fully satisfy lezorān, ðozoŋwur and lūtasyā, even though it is impossible – indeed, because it is impossible, humans lie constantly to themselves, saying that it can be done, to make themselves continue to try. It is also the flaw that makes it impossible to ever approach the great god. Animals cannot approach the great god because they lack lūtasyā; Sky and Earth cannot approach the great god not only because they do not have lūtasyā, but also because they have the flaw of ambition in their ðozoŋwur; humans too cannot approach the great god because of the ambition in their ðozoŋwur.
In the most famous passage of Stars and Time, from part 29, Ridranos sums up this philosophy of his:
Human beings are always grasping at more, reaching endlessly for higher and higher things. We cannot be happy with the inventions we have; we constantly take issue with them and toil and struggle to create something a little better. We cannot eat the same thing every day; we must add new things, do things in a different way, always, always, expanding, complicating. We cannot talk and laugh with our friends and go away satisfied, as to need no more; rather, we crave more, more, more! We cannot merely live life and recount it to others; we must have stories. Most of all, we cannot merely eat and drink and sleep and be satisfied in the fulfillment of our lezorān, or love and hate and sympathize and be satisfied in the fulfillment of our ðozoŋwur; we must search always for truth and beauty and gods and all other such vague, transcendent things. We alone among our fellow beings – animals, Sky and Earth – grasp endlessly at eternity and have this unrelenting thirst in our hearts….Yet when we search for the high things and reach deep into ourselves for the strength and will to push higher and higher, we can only eventually come fully face to face with the utter darkness of our hearts, inexplicably and bitterly twisted into something that wishes futilely for light and so must veil itself more and more in an effort to face the Sun [e.g., the great god] – veil itself with empty graspings at better technology, richer life, closer friendship, purposefully created things, truth and beauty and the gods….And so to face the all-revealing Truth of the Light of the Sun, we must tear off those veils of meaningless meaning, only to discover that we are left with only our dark impure hearts, made human and different from the animals and the lesser gods [Sky and Earth] only by our twisted desires to veil ourselves and become something greater even as it is more and more false, and so as we stand in truth before the Sun we are yet more desperately hopeless than when we stand upon lies before him….Life is indeed futile.– Ŋarin Ridranos, Stars and Time, part 29
The cycle of ambition and the decay of relationships
In works such as War in Heaven and on Earth, Ridranos develops an idea that due to this ambition, human relationships will always decay. He takes the myth of how Sky and Earth, pure manifestations of ðozoŋwur, are part of an endless cycle in which they love each other for a time and produce a human race, then come to hate each other and eventually destroy the world and their human offspring in their war, but then love each other again and create another human race. Humans, he says, will go through quite different cycles because of the influence of their lezorān and lūtasyā. For instance, family members can have good, long-lasting relationships because of the ties of lezorān – they have bodies that are physically related to each other. Similarly, people can remain friends for a long time if they are kind to each other, following their lūtasyā. But since the ambition of ðozoŋwur poisons all other aspects of human nature, human relationships will all eventually decay as people continue to try to get more and more and become better and better. This was already an established tenet of Egeldish theology and culture at the time Ridranos explored it, but Ridranos did an excellent job of providing practical examples of this principle in works like Light and Duty.
Particularly in Light and Duty, Ridranos tries to construct a model for how a human being could try to balance lezorān, ðozoŋwur and lūtasyā in order to live a life that is as fulfilling as possible within the “ultimately futile universe we exist in” (part 5). First of all, he writes, lūtasyā should come first – people should prioritize trying to understand morality and truth, and for this reason education is important, since it helps people to better find truth. Secondly, people should pursue ðozoŋwur by not repressing their emotions and being willing to feel strongly. Before actually acting on their emotions, people should make sure their intended actions line up with lūtasyā. But mere feelings should never be repressed for reasons of lūtasyā or anything else. Ridranos especially encourages people to be quick to spontaneously do a kind thing for someone they pity – a perfect example of following lūtasyā through the emotions of ðozoŋwur. Finally, people should pursue lezorān, taking care of their bodies and making sure they eat, sleep, etc. enough. But they should be willing to quash their instincts in order to do something kind, following lūtasyā first, or feel strongly, following ðozoŋwur. Interestingly, Ridranos places family relations within the realm of lezorān, since families are connected by their physical relation. He especially points this out when he writes that people should be willing to do something kind for a stranger they pity at the cost of being able to properly care for their family, as long as they do not pity their family above the stranger. “Feelings come before instinct,” he writes, “and therefore one must prioritize helping the people one feels about above helping the people one has an instinct to help” (part 18).
Also in Light and Duty, Ridranos details various ideas for softening the negative effects of human ambition. He encourages people to pursue humility and to be happy with simple things, rather than always trying to make their lives more pleasant or more comfortable. But he does acknowledge that one cannot be fully human without this ambition, and so he encourages people to continue to try to improve their lives – just to put the search for goodness, truth and lūtasyā above this endeavor of ðozoŋwur.
- War in Heaven and on Earth (1330). Ridranos analyzes the traditional Egeldish myth of how Sky and Earth once loved each other, but now war against each other and against their offspring, the human race. He draws parallels to how human relationships so easily swing between love and hate, and suggests that a key part of being human is this emotional similarity to the gods. From this he tentatively concludes that if even the gods cannot avoid the pain of being rejected by a loved one, there is no way that human beings can reasonably avoid such strife – if they do, they are repressing the noble aspect of their nature, the part of them that is similar to the gods, and so are not being truly human at all.
- The Human and the Animal (1335). Ridranos investigates the difference between humans and animals and comes to the conclusion that the central difference is that humans try endlessly to better themselves and improve their life situation, while animals are happy with merely satisfying their basic desires for food, shelter, etc. He also suggests the idea that this human striving for improvement is the key reason why humans are so often unhappy – animals, on the other hand, he writes, are only unhappy when their basic desires are unfulfilled.
- Knowledge and Goodness (1341). Ridranos explores the question of what is truly good or evil, and how humans can be sure that they know the truth about what is good and evil. He concludes that ultimately only a person’s own conscience can tell them what is right to do, but somebody can corrupt their own conscience by consistently doing evil. So a person can never be completely sure whether what they feel is right is actually right or just the product of a corrupted conscience. He also briefly touches on the idea that, as other parts of human nature come from Sky and Earth, this conscience is something from a god higher than Sky and Earth and so more noble and valuable.
- Stars and Time (1344). In this book Ridranos finally fully develops his idea of a god greater and higher than Sky and Earth, one that he calls “the Sun” “because it is the only word I have to express the eternal and unchanging benevolence of such a being” (part 5). He portrays this god as being unchanging, eternal, truthful, and all-powerful, but unwilling to lower himself to deal with flawed beings such as the lesser gods Sky and Earth and, even more so, humans. In this book Ridranos also denounces the human tendency to continually grasp at progress and improvement, saying that it is part of the evil arrogance that also led to Sky and Earth’s war.
- Light and Duty (1350). Taking the philosophy he developed in Stars and Time, Ridranos explores how a human being should live in such a world. He says that humans should be humble and learn to take joy in simple things, like good food or safe shelter, while always seeking to find truth and better understand how to do right. While they should not spend all their time and energy trying to make their life better or more comfortable, he writes, they should slowly pursue comfort with the goal of then being able to better focus on the important questions of morality and truth.
- The Light Above the Horizon (1370). Returning to his earlier idea that the human conscience is something from the great god above Sky and Earth, Ridranos tries to form an idea of what this god is like based on what human consciences are like. He also makes conclusions about what the great god is like based on how parts of the natural world which he doesn’t think are “corrupted” by Sky or Earth are like. In the end, he concludes that this god is a god of strict rules, truth, kindness, fairness and faithfulness.
- Black and White (1331). This is a novel exploring Ridranos’s early idea that strong emotions and volatility are an important, if often painful, part of being human. It tells the story of an Egeldish man and woman who marry just before the fall of Egeld’s empire, but then grow to hate each other in the wake of the civil war after the fall of the empire. Only parts of the story are extant – most of the beginning, some parts of the middle, and only a tiny bit of the ending. It has been the subject of much study and speculation as to what the rest of the story was like.
- The Sun Over the Mountains (1345). This epic poem, only half-finished, tells the story of a Egeldish warrior who fails his lord and then flees to Azon, hoping to find respite from his horrible guilt at having failed his master. It chronicles his journey as he accepts that he will ultimately always fail and is humbled. Ridranos was inspired to write this poem after reading some Lat epic poetry while in Dyenā, but he eventually abandoned it when he decided that such a form was not a good way to explore his ideas. It continues to be considered a classic of Egeldish literature, however, and several other authors have written endings for it.
- 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Dāʔos, Lēŋone (1495). Ŋarin Ridranos and the Foundation of Modern Thought. Sokoli & Sons Publishing, Mitzduran, Jacia.
- 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 Yudelia, Jasosa (1485). A Short Biography of Ŋarin Ridranos. Publishing House Yapet, Poyyeizy, Jacia.
- 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Crāā, Enāne (1499). Ŋarin Ridranos and the Egeldish Religious Establishment. Publishing House of Egeld, Tēselos, Egeld.
- 4.0 4.1 Crāā, Soţānyal. Ŋārin Rīdranos. Publishing House of Egeld, Tēselos, Egeld.
- Juhērntos, Juhārgene. A History of Egeld, Volume 2: Revolution and Reorganization. Publishing House of Egeld, Tēselos, Egeld.
- 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Nūtica, Nyejānne. The Philosophy of Ŋārin Rīdranos. Oga Books, Paraso, Carafilier.
- Quoted in Nūtica, pg. 201
- 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 Desulta, Peradá. An Introduction to the Works of Ŋarin Ridranos. Cahmeir Publishing, Carafilier