Song of the Earth
Mind, body, and spirit are all part of the larger whole of the person, just as the person is part of the larger whole of the universe. Identity, division, and conflict are illusions. When the mind and body come into harmony, the soul follows. When the individual doesn’t resist the universe but moves with it, he embraces his nature. From these philosophical roots came the Akashic Brotherhood. By honing the body, the Brothers make a temple for the mind; with the refined mind comes understanding of the spirit. The Brotherhood uses simply tools — exercise, meditation, practice, and study — to refine the simple man into a brother of knowledge.
The philosophical and historic roots of the Akashic Brotherhood lie in the beginning times when all people lived in harmony. The first Akashics learned their skill in Do from Dragon and Phoenix, and they disciplined their bodies and their minds through the balance of movement and stillness. As the earth turned and more people came to live near the All, the All fractured and became dissonant. The balance between mind and body, motion and stillness, was disturbed, and the ones who would become Akashic Brothers retreated into mountains, caves, and forests to continue their study of balance through Do. Martial arts and exercises perfected the body while rigorous disciplines, chants, and prayers cleansed the mind.
As the world fractured and people took up dissonant paths, conflict came in several forms to the Brotherhood. The earliest artificers brought the first vestiges of technology to humanity, thus turning people from their relationship with the immaterial world and strengthening the barrier between the physical and the spiritual realms. Tools encouraged people to focus on only the things they could touch and forget that there was ever anything else; material goods became a goal and replaced the natural fulfillment of personal accomplishment. Even within the Brotherhood, young students took up the study of Do but failed to understand the relationship between philosophy and physical prowess. These warriors saw the Brotherhood’s physical skills as an end, and brought disharmony to the group and its relations with others.
Later, Akashic conflicts expanded to include another group of Awakened humans, a band of mages who saw reincarnation as their duty. The Brotherhood didn’t approve of mages who took into their own hands the power over life and death, and the Brotherhood warred against the death mages — who would later become the Euthanatos — for 300 years. The war left both Traditions scarred. Although neither has entirely forgiven the other for the centuries of bloodshed, they’ve learned from each other. Neither Tradition (as a whole) jumps quickly into conflict.
As the spiritual philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, and similar religions spread across Asia, the Brotherhood followed. The Shaolin monasteries of China housed their members, as did the mountain-dwelling hermits of Japan, the cloistered priests of Tibet, and the mysterious mystics of India. Many common people adopted Brotherhood beliefs in everyday life. This groundswell of common support became the Brotherhood’s bane: Organized nations, harsh rulers, and secret societies resented the Brotherhood’s liberating influence on the Masses. Eventually, the Brotherhood found itself embroiled in wars as armies and governments sought to destroy its influence. The Hierarchical societies and caste systems, combined with a focus on material living, turned people against the Brotherhood’s self-empowering ways.
Still, as an organization devoted to the improvement of the individual, the Akashic Brotherhood survived. Wandering priests here and there kept the Brotherhood’s ideas alive while the teachings of the Tradition remained part of many cultures and families. Technocratic influence may have destroyed the Brotherhood’s material strength, but that was never its focus — the Brotherhood’s true power came from the soul of humanity. Those who needed guidance, who felt the calling of Do, found the Brotherhood. Independent of the modern desires, structures, and possessions of the technological age, the brothers and sisters couldn’t be trapped or deprived of the light they kept within.
To the modern Traditions, the Brotherhood now embodies the balance between violence and peace, understanding and conflict, in which the Traditions themselves remain embroiled. The Brotherhood’s roots are spiritual, so they can’t be slain with bullets, money, or laws. The Warring Fists use their incredible prowess to battle the enemies of the Traditions, while their teachings preach the Ascension of each individual through righteous action. As the modern Renaissance of martial arts and Asian philosophy blends with 21st-century culture and technology, the Brotherhood seeds itself once more in the hearts of common people everywhere.
Structure in the Brotherhood is loose; enlightenment and destiny are recognized as steps along the path, but all living things have virtue and value. To the Brotherhood, the idea of placing one thing or philosophy over another is a false division. Therefore, while Masters are respected for their insight, they don’t exercise any real weight of authority — they’re simply credited for their insight. Akashic acolytes come from all walks of life, but all study the Akashic way of leading a pure and simple lifestyle, at least to some degree. As a Brother progresses to a simpler and more unhindered state of Do and a greater Arete, his accomplishments are recorded and his teachings distributed so that all may benefit from them.
The Akashic Brotherhood isn’t made up of Shaolin priests only; neither does it exclude Caucasians or any other group. True, the focus of the Traditions is mainly Asian, but the search for balance and understanding is universal. Buddhists, Confucianists, and Taoists make up a good percentage of the Brotherhood’s ranks. Atheists, pagans, and even Christians are welcome — any enlightened soul seeking to find harmony and study the way of Do can become a Brother. Incidentally, the term Brother isn’t a slight against the female members of the Tradition. Akashic Brother is simply a title for someone who studies the ways of Akasha, and it’s intended to carry no gender bias.
Although the Tradition seems peaceful on the outside, it’s not so from the inside. Disagreement thrives within this Tradition as well as it does within the others. the greatest divisions in the Akashic ranks arise between the younger members who want to make war on their enemies, the Masters who seek only enlightenment, and the newly initiated members of the Wu Lung Craft.
Heavily traditional elements make up the Shi-Ren, or “benevolent aristocracy.” Legalists and political elements who desire greater Akashic influence in worldly affairs form the basis of this group. According to the Shi-Ren, Brotherhood ways can only continue to fade into obscurity if the cultures that spawned them are pushed into history. Although many modern Shi-Ren don’t honestly believe that a return to Imperial China is possible, they do feel that it’s important for the Brotherhood to maintain a stake in modern politics and culture. They stress the teaching of history and the roots of the Brotherhood; many have Pattern Essences. These Brothers study Mind magic intensely, push for better organization, and sere as a public face in diplomacy and political struggle.
In direct counterpoint to the traditional members of the Brotherhood are the Li-Hat, who subscribe to Mo Tzu’s philosophy of utilitarian morality. These Brothers believe that ancient traditions force the mind into a false sense of morality, one that isn’t guided by pragmatism. Groundless traditions then cause people to take harmful actions. The Li-Hai argue that all morality must stem from reasoned analysis of what’s utilitarian and what’s harmful, and they seek to abolish old traditions that no longer have relevance in the modern age. These Brothers feel that the Brotherhood needs to modernize, to accept new ideas to approach the changing world and to learn to work within the systems of tools promoted by scientific society. Although these Brothers continue the practice of Do, they discard elements of Akashic magic that stem from old tradition. Instead, they seek to meld Do and the Akashic Record into a modern, rational approach to health, morality, and personal advancement.
The Kannagara are ascetics who uphold many old practices within the Brotherhood. These monks take on difficult ordeals to purify themselves and to strengthen themselves physically and spiritually. All members of the Brotherhood use such techniques to some degree, but the Kannagara believe that the right mind and right soul can only come through right action, and that such action stems from ritual, hardship, and practice. Most Kannagara remain cloistered away in Akashic retreats, where they practice daily prayers and devotions. They sometimes journey to the outside world as well, in order to see that which they hope to surpass. As Brotherhood retreats fall to modern expansion or tourism, and asceticism loses popularity, the Kannagara slowly dwindle.
Mystically inclined Brothers from the Jnani, a group of yogis who follow various forms of Shinto and Tibetan rites in order to develop spiritually. As monists, the Jnani hope to reconcile the consciousness of the self with the Avatar (which they term the “Buddha-Mind”). Through practices of yoga, tantra, prayer, chant, and the ubiquitous Do and meditation, Jnani seek unification with the absolute principle of reality. Instead of seeing reality as malleable, they believe that it stems from one core principle, and that all other veils of illusion stem from the inability to reconcile the self with the absolute principle. These monks engage in spirit-questing, and they seek out internal wisdom to remove the boundaries between the self and the Avatar. Naturally, they command potent Spirit magic. However, they also retain many unusual libraries and practices unknown to much of the rest of the Brotherhood. Rumor says that they have long held several hidden monasteries and that they keep secret catacombs deep beneath the Earth, where no one can find passage to Horizon Realms or discover ancient places of power that tap into the consciousness of the absolute.
Young and hot-blooded warriors in the Brotherhood join Vajrapani, or “wielders of the Diamond Wand.” To them, enlightenment is like a diamond: Hard, unyielding, containing only reflections of the outward world. The Vajrapani give the Brotherhood is moniker as “Warring Fists,” for their title stems from the term for both “diamond” and “thunderbolt,” whilst the diamond wand of their namesake is the metaphor for supernatural power. These Akashics argue that the Technocracy can be defeated only through powerful action, and they use Do as their weapon. Interestingly, the Vajrapani stem originally from a metaphysical feminine principle, but this faction doesn’t limit membership in this political faction. Indeed, being a Vajrapani is often more a matter of a young and impulsive student getting labeled as such by a mentor (or recognized as a kindred sort by other young warriors). Vajrapani work to develop their martial prowess, and they often seek out conflict with the perceived enemies of the Brotherhood. Oldest members sometimes drift into other factions, but some do remain active warriors — the Tradition must have defenders, after all.
Lastly, the Wu Lung, the family of the Dragon, are a separate sect of mages who allied with the Brotherhood very recently. In the past, the Wu Lung and the Akashic Brotherhood fought for dominance over traditional China. Today, with their greatest leaders slain and their heritage diluted by modern China, the Wu Lung have been forced to set aside their grudges and ally with the only remaining inheritors of China’s ancient culture. The Dragon Wizards practice a rigorous and bureaucratic style of magic, reminiscent of China’s old imperial days, complete with ancestor worship and careful appeasement of the heavenly spirits. Both Brothers and Wizards even practice their own martial art separate from Do. It seems that their faction in the Brotherhood will remain a rather disparate part, forced by circumstance to bow to the greater weight of the Brotherhood in the Traditions. The imperial bureaucrats study primarily Spirit magic so that they can commune with ancestors and answer the mandates of Heaven properly.
A return to simplicity lies at the heart of the Brotherhood’s beliefs. Humans clutter up their lives with unnecessary and extraneous objects and desires. How can one understand the natural harmony of the universe by trying to grasp it, own it, or control it? The natural place for every individual — the role of Drahma — is apparent when one isn’t blinded by the illusions of greed, desire, and power. The exercises of living give a soul the chance to experience the universe in manifold forms, and so the individual should take this opportunity to gain insight by developing a harmony with the All. Each life is just a step on the greater wheel of Drahma until the individual releases himself from the chains that he forged with his own beliefs and desires.
Subtlety and Zen-like calm are among the Brotherhood’s strengths, but they are also a great weakness. Because the order focuses so closely on personal growth and individual enlightenment, its Masters have no connection to the individual student’s personal paths to understanding. Instead of being able to help and Initiate move toward wisdom with lessons or suggestions, most Akashic Brothers can offer only rote physical training, cryptic passages in old books, or puzzling idioms that are supposed to lead the student to her own revelation. Some apprentices don’t learn well without close guidance, and some mages are unable to move beyond a certain point in their development without help.
The masters can’t tell their students what it is they’re supposed to be learning, or where or even how they’re supposed to find it. As a result, the Brotherhood loses a disproportionate number of young mages due to simple frustration. The ones who do stick with the Tradition are making some attempt to counteract this Zen disease, but they are struggling against the immense weight of time and long-honored tradition. The Brotherhood’s very individualistic belief that all people must find their own path paradoxically makes it difficult for the Brotherhood to do more than give aspiring mages a few simple tools. The Masters can’t teach the way to enlightenment, they believe, since each person must find a unique path. Those who are enlightened can’t explain their sublime understanding; those who aren’t don’t know how to start. The Masters point the way — it’s up to the students to follow it, but only if they can understand it.
Theories And Practices:
The Akashic Brotherhood keeps its soul in the pages of the Akashic Record, a collection of all of the experience of all Akashic Brothers over time. Its pages may be paper and ink, but the book is reflected in all levels of the world, spiritual and material alike. Legend has it that it was originally begun by the Ascended Avatar named Akasha, for whom the Order is also named. The Record serves as an inspiration and meditation for the Brotherhood, allowing the mages to access past experience and wisdom. The Record isn’t, however, a book to simply be read. It presents knowledge in such a manner that the seeker won’t forget, in puzzles, riddles, koans, or short passages that seem mundane. By diving into the Record, a brother can relive the experiences of the past, sometimes even coming forth with elements of his own past lives.
The soul of the Brotherhood is in its Record, but for the body and mind there’s Do (pronounced “doe”). Literally, “the Way,” Do is the art of training the body in order to achieve a peaceful mind. Do is the essence of martial art, the root of more mundane arts — its movements allow Akashic Brothers to perform feats that combine physical, mental, and magical precision. However, Do is more than just a fantastically deadly fighting style and physical discipline. It’s a style of living, a means to develop the fullest potential of the human body by moving harmoniously in natural cycles. Do stylists practice proper balance in nutrition, exercise, sleep, thought, creation, and destruction, all guided as important parts of the greater whole. Ultimately, the Do practitioner brings his body and mind in harmony with the natural flow of life, unhindered by the artificial constructs of development in a world cluttered by extraneous material.
Do pervades every aspect of the Akashic attitude toward magic. As there must be right thinking, right speech, right understanding, and right action, there must be right mind in order to achieve right body and right living. Thus, the Tradition studies Mind as its primary Sphere. Without that one block in place, nothing else can be aligned and the mage — or her opponent — is as hampered as she would be with no body. All Akashics thus study Do in some manner, be it through difficult martial arts, internal questing or quiet meditation.
Although Do is the primary structure for Akashic magic, many Brothers add other practices to focus their energy. Like Do, these practices are often Asiatic in origin — feng shui, meditation, and calligraphy are excellent ways to direct chi — but all are designed to unify and direct motion and thought toward a goal. The spiritual and magical worlds aren’t far removed from the physical world. The balanced and enlightened man can, in time, access all layers of the universe.
Still, many Akashic Brothers fail to understand the dichotomy that their Tradition teaches. Convinced of the rightness of their cause in harmony with Do and the universe, warriors of the Brotherhood try to fight or force others into their mold, never realizing that in doing so they turn human against human and create disharmony instead of healing it. The aptly named Warring Fists thus fight a constant war against the elements they hold repugnant. Yet in doing so, they promote the very violence that their teachings despise. For many, enlightenment comes only later, and these monks retreat from the world to find peace instead of conflict.