Just as the quest for meaning is one of the most ancient puzzles of human thought, so too is the use of the path as a metaphor for this desire for understanding. A path is a road, perhaps direct and perhaps winding, which leads through a complex and difficult environment. The path has a beginning, though few people might first set foot upon it at that point, and an end, although few (or no) people may ever reach the end. The metaphor of the path implies a route, a direction which includes a purpose, which is carved by one (or many) and which others might subsequently follow to reach a similar destination. This metaphor is nearly ubquitous in human cultures.
A path of enlightenment may therefore be said to be any system of beliefs, thoughts, or questions which allow someone to try to find the answers or meaning they seek. A path of enlightenment is any road by which understanding is sought. A path might be followed by coountless individuals or only a single pair of feet, but regardless, it is the journey, and not the destination, which gives meaning to the path. Each religion is a path of enlightenment. Each school of philosophy is a path. Even such ideals as humanity itself, the path of conducting oneself with mercy, compassion, and empathy towards other living things, is a path of enlightenment.
The Path of Forsteri is one such path of enlightenment. Philosophical rather than religious, the Path of Forsteri is founded in the teachings of the Silinist church but exists independent of any faith. The Path teaches that by asking questions ceaselessly, the individual gains greater insight into the Universe, into others, and into themselves. Furthermore, the Path teaches the glory of balance, of chaos, and of confusion. Balance is emphasized because, to all things, a sense of balance between extremes is essential to survival as well as happiness. Chaos is emphasized because the world in its current state is overrun by stagnant order, and where chaos exists, it is uncontrolled and does more harm than good. Confusion is emphasized because the Path teaches that the Universe is defined by how it is perceived, and by increasing the confusion of others, one's own ability to alter the Universe is strengthened.
No single philosophy can hope to be the right path for all people, but it is hoped that this modest document can be of some value to you. Share and enjoy.
For millennia, scholars and philosophers have debated morality, ethics, behavior, and the manner in which humans should behave to each other and to other species under an assortment of other names. Time and time again, people have decided that conventional human morality, and perhaps the notion of humanity itself as a code of ethics, is flawed and unworkable. Those unable to retain their strength of spirit while flagging under a crushing system of behaviour turn to Paths of Enlightenment: unconventional modes of behavior and ethics through which they can interact with and perceive the world in a manner conducive to their own growth and development.
The format presented here, and the terminology "path of enlightenment" itself, is borrowed from White Wolf Publishing, because it is helpful in forming a coherent (or semi-coherent) foundation for a system of thought. The metaphor of a path is a powerful one throughout the history of human thought regarding enlightenment: a path shows the direction, but it is the one who walks that path who must expend the effort of walking it, of crossing the obstacles upon it, and of choosing wisely when the path diverges.
Those who walk the Path of Forsteri refer to themselves as Followers. This is mainly to allow for easy identification of members and those familiar with the Path. Those who follow the religious aspect of Forsteri as well often label themselves Silinists instead.
The Path of Forsteri, it is told, was developed by a small group of people over the course of many years. By combining aspects of religion, philosophy, common sense, and less-than-common sense, the basic tenets of the Path were forged. Central to this path is the belief that the Universe is mutable and shaped by belief. Most religions teach that belief reshapes reality -- the act of praying for a desired outcome is the attempt to alter the future through belief and faith. Because almost all people believe in the Universe as it is generally conceived, it therefore has power, even over those who do not believe. However, the Path's focus is not on changing reality but on learning to work within it to one's own ends. Those who do not follow the Path but also hold radically different viewpoints from the Followers are frequently referred to as Normals, or more commonly, Mundanes, and the explicit goal of the Path is to wrest from these individuals control over reality itself.
To outsiders, the Path of Forsteri is generally seen as an eccentricity or bad joke, and this is closer to the truth than they might imagine. The Path's followers see themselves in a light which is wholly different from most people. In seeing everything in life as a joke and a game, the Path's followers take themselves seriously by not taking themselves seriously. That is, they treat serious matters as silly without sacrificing the seriousness. In this way, even serious matters can be accepted, adapted to, and overcome.
The most powerful tool of the follower of the Path is the question. Followers believe that the Universe is, to a great extent, defined by the questions which people choose to ask of themselves and others. There are six Great Questions which the followers seek to answer: Who are you, what do you want, why are you here, where are you going, who do you serve, and who do you trust. There are then six secondary questions: who do others think you are, what do others think you want, etc, and after that, tertiary and quaternary questions. To the followers, every question is powerful, and each who walks the Path must decide what questions serve them best in learning their Answers. The answers are far less important than the questions; it is the pursuit of answers, rather than the answers themselves, which bring meaning and understanding.
Faith is as important as the questions themselves. While members of diverse religions follow the Path of Forsteri, almost all followers cling to a faith in something. Whether it be the Judeo-Christian god or a cosmic potato, faith is seen by the Followers as a focus for any search into the Universe, and without the ability to form a strong faith in *something*, no Follower is likely to proceed far along the Path.
Find the questions which reveal the answers most relevant to you.
Never screw over friends and family.
Speak quietly, even if you must then repeat yourself to those who were not listening closely.
Learn who others are and particularly what they want -- to know them is to know their impact on the Universe, and thus, on you.
Indulge desires *and* repress them, but do neither to excess. Balance is the key to all things.
Be truthful where possible. Lie where necessary. Do not reveal which you are doing.
By bringing confusion on others, you assert your own Universe over theirs, and thus, free you both.
Bow to no one and give service only for cause.
Adopt, adapt, and improve.
A prophecy is just a guess that comes true. Reshape reality and your prophecies will come to pass.
Everything can be an omen -- know when to accept something as such and bend the Universe to mean what you see.
The exact history of the Path is unclear; due to the natures of the chroniclers, keeping anything more than a basic timeline is redundant. To all accounts, the Path was first established in the late 1980s but did not begin to come into practice, even among its creators, until the early 2000s.
Followers do not tend to follow the wills of the masses, and obey the dictates of society only because to do otherwise would call down interference in following the Path. They seek out science-fiction and fantasy as a means of looking at the world -- and other worlds -- through as many varied viewpoints as possible. Rarely do Followers become enmeshed deeply in a religious group, unless they themselves founded the group. Followers almost always seek out other Followers, feeling that the search into the Universe is facilitated by the presence of like-minded people.
The majority of Followers are young men and women in North America due to the method of progression of the Path's message: the Internet and word of mouth. However, the Path has been growing internationally and counts members of many cultures and age groups. Followers are typically somewhat socially inept, as they tend to be uncomfortable among large groups of Mundanes. There is no factor which defines who might become a Follower except that few people are sympathetic, and thus, open to, the teachings of the Path.
Followers commonly hold Mundanes in contempt, as they feel that failing to follow the Path is a matter of choice and not circumstance. Followers tolerate Mundanes because they have little choice, and can and will be perfectly nice to them. Every Mundane, after all, is a potential adherent, and even if they do not want to walk the Path, every human is another person of whom a Follower might ask their Questions. First and foremost, Followers seek peace with the Universe, be it through love, friendship, studies, seclusion, achievements or chaos. Commonly, Followers seek out pastimes by which they escape or change reality, such as gaming, reading, or art.
The Hierarchy of Sins is a rough example of the application of the ethics of the path. In essence, the Hierarchy gives levels of progress upon the Path. A new Follower might be forgiven for failing to obey the Path in the lower sins, such as failing to pursue a new question. As one advances upon the Path, however, the more focused they must be and the easier it is for them to begin to lose progress. While all Followers are expected, for example, to refrain from harming others, only those who focus on the Path to the utmost see it as a personal failure to failt to pursue a new question. This Hierarchy is a guideline only; it would defeat the purpose of the Path for all members to have a common code of conduct to which they had to adhere.
10: Guideline: Refusing to try and shape the Universe.
Rationale: In surrendering to the Universe, we are nothing more than Mundanes.
9: Guideline: Failing to pursue a new question.
Rationale: Any question, no matter how simple, may be the key to Understanding.
8: Guideline: Failing to pursue understanding of a new philosophy.
Rationale: All schools of thought have some merit and must be understood where possible.
7: Guideline: Lying unnecessarily.
Rationale: A lie told for long enough becomes truth, and thus, any lie may be dangerous.
6: Guideline: Breaking an oath, granting an oath unnecessarily.
Rationale: We accept that the Universe changes, and so our sworn word must be eternal. Grant not your word lightly, for the same reason.
5: Guideline: Serving a Mundane without cause.
Rationale: In serving the Mundanes, we build their Universe. In building their world, we fight our own.
4: Guideline: Causing harm to a Mundane without cause.
Rationale: Each Mundane is a potential Follower. Even those who turn from the Path deserve to seek their own path.
3: Guideline: Harming one who trusts you.
Rationale: Trust comes sparingly, and must be taken as a rare treasure, even from mere acquaintances.
2: Guideline: Harming a close friend or loved one.
Rationale: To harm those we love is tantamount to and often worse than harming ourselves. One who does such a thing does not deserve to shape the world.
1: Guideline: Failing to create when presented with an opportunity.
Rationale: Only in the creation of what is new can we push aside (or even understand) the old.
The Followers of the Path of Forsteri believe that all philosophies have some merit, and people deserve an opportunity to shape their lives as they see fit as long as in doing so they do not seek to impair the Follower. This does not mean that a Follower must endorse philosophies which support racism, but rather suggests that a Follower not stop people from attending sporting events or other such things. In general, Followers will be on good terms with anyone whose own path respects basic humans rights and the rights of the Followers to walk the Path. In this, the Followers are most likely to associate with disorganized religion, such as Wiccans, Discordians, goths, mystics, and atheists. In dealing with organized religions, Followers are much more likely to remain aloof and be reluctant to discuss their ideas, but often ask many questions of those with whom they deal. One exception is in dealing with fundamentalists; the majority of Followers will question more harshly one who believes that people other than them will go to Hell or some other similar plane, or who believes that people who disagree with them are doomed in any way. In dealing with these people, Followers are far more likely to ask annoying rather than interesting questions and generally make utter pests of themselves until the other person leaves or gives up.
Followers are most likely to associate with and work alongside people with a deep respect for humor, silliness, questions, or philosophy, and in most cases will treat such a person as well as they would any other Follower, assuming this respect is returned.
To understand anything is difficult. Few are the things which can be fully grasped by the human mind. Rather, we strive instead to understand things as best we can. Like the arrow of Xeno's Paradox, our minds eternally move half the remaining distance towards final understanding. We can never reach the destination, but we can get immeasurably close. It is the journey and not the destination which has true value.
To know a Follower is difficult, as the very nature of the Path requires that they make themselves difficult to understand. Most if not all Followers pride themselves on being puzzles of various complexity. Some seek to be understood while other seek to drive mad those who would analyze them. Suppose that you are reading a manuscript composed by a Follower which details their inner thoughts. Is the manuscript a cry for understanding, or is it merely the Follower's attempt at placing a riddle before a prospective student? Perhaps there is no deeper meaning, and to try and analyze such a document... hypothetically, of course... is futile?
A typical Follower's attitude is that, in seeking to understand the Universe, they try not to hide from it. Where possible, they do not hide behind illusions. Few are the people who really are what they appear to be, and ostensibly if not in fact, most Followers belong to this small group. What does it mean to be what one appears to be? Consider this example.
The average person assumes a multitude of faces during the day. Examine a typical Mundane adolescent. They awaken and see friends on the bus. In front of their friends, they are "cool." Perhaps, depending on the subject, they act callous, or perverse, or studious. When they reach school, they must assume another face, such as a dutiful student. This continues ad nauseum, and most people are unaware of the way they change faces. Moreover, few people actually behave according to their true hearts, acting instead in the manner they feel is expected of them.
In theory, a Follower strives not to fall prey to this. A Follower accepts their true nature and acts according to it. As it requires a certain type of nature to become a Follower, it is little surprise that many of them then display similar traits. If they adopt a mask of a Follower, it is, at least, a mask worn in more than one type of situation. The theory that this is a truer nature than an adopted mask is supported when one considers the great social pressure *not* to take on such a mask.
What is the significance of a Follower being what they appear to be? Followers tend to be open with Who They Are, the first question of the Universe. As such, they can be trusted, to exactly the degree which they warn that they can be trusted to. A Follower is likely to be extremely explicit in their warnings to others that they can only be trusted to a certain degree. Trust them to do what? As most Followers would then answer: they can be trusted that, should they commit an act which another might see as wrong, they will cause as little harm as possible. If they like you.
Because Followers place such great emphasis on questions, they pay careful attention to the sort of questions they ask, and more importantly, what others ask them. To their closest, most trusted friends, a Follower will sometimes grant the One True Question. In simple terms, the Follower offers an oath that another person, Mundane or Follower, may ask them one question to which they will not evade, stretch the truth, obfuscate, or lie. While at first this may sound silly, or even egocentric, to the Followers, it is a powerful expression of trust towards another. The Follower is telling the recipient of the Question that the Follower trusts them enough that, either they know the question they must answer will not harm them, or if they reveal some great secret, it will stay a secret. As trust in another does not come easily to a Follower, the ritual of the One True Question is a rare and, for the Follower, meaningful gesture.
To become a Follower is a simple task in general. The most difficult part of becoming one who walks the Path is finding a teacher. Once someone has learned that the path exists, the subjective nature of the path means that they carve most of it out on their own. Because Followers tend to seek out others like them, however, a new Follower will often associate with a more experienced Follower, or several Followers. This is not because walking the Path requires instruction, though the lessons learned by one Follower are always useful to another. Rather, an experienced Follower can learn as much from a newly initiated Follower as vice versa.
The initiation to become a Follower is as subjective as the rest of the Path. Assuming one does not simply declare themselves to be a Follower, they will typically be asked the six questions on which Followers place such emphasis. There are no wrong answers to the questions of the Universe, but ideally, one who seeks to walk the Path should have either a well-developed answer or a sound grasp of what the question means to them.
To the Followers, there are many ridiculous laws and rules which are kept in society. In general, the origins of these laws, or sometimes, customs, are religion-based, and there are few if any logical bases for them. In other cases, the laws do make sense, but have obviously been twisted by a distinctly Mundane viewpoint. Chief among these customs is the "Golden Rule," do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This custom is one of the cornerstones of the inappropriately named "common sense," and while the dictum's originators clearly meant well, the law is flawed.
Forsteri's Rule, sometimes referred to as the Platinum Rule or Shaw's Golden Rule, is simpler still than the Golden Rule. The Rule states, "do unto others as they wish done unto them; your tastes may differ." In practical application, the superiority of Forsteri's Rule is obvious. Consider an extreme situation. A masochist sees someone: Should the masochist treat this person as the masochist would like to be treated, and hurt them, or as the person no doubt wishes to be treated, and not hurt them?
The problem with the above argument is that it is an extreme case, and an extreme case can be found to support any argument. The obvious flaw in Forsteri's Rule is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to always know the desires of another. One can safely assume that a person does not want to be hurt, but can we judge if someone would rather have brownies or an apple? The Rule also shares a pitfall with the Golden Rule, which is illustrated by the multitude of date rape cases, where the desires of one participant are accidentally or willfully misunderstood. The Golden Rule fails in this case because the other person is treated how the perpetrator would want to be treated (they think), and Forsteri's Rule fails because if we think someone wants something, the Rule suggests that we grant them their wish, even if it is something that we would not want for ourselves. Clearly, then, neither Rule works in all cases. This is an inherent flaw in all attempts to form morality into a simple dictum. The Followers feel that, even if they cannot find a rule that fits all situations, they can at least form a Rule which is better than those used by the Mundanes. Forsteri's Rule takes into account the changing nature of the Universe. If two people perceive reality differently, as may happen among Followers, then they will have different tastes. Forsteri's Rule furthermore encourages people to find out what others want, and thus serve others while increasing their understanding of the Universe around them.
The reason that the Golden Rule and Forsteri's Rule are deeply examined by Followers is simple: as the Ethics of the Path and the Hierarchy of Sins state, it is wrong to harm others unnecessarily. There are two considerations to this. First, harm is subjective, and second, what is necessary harm? According to the Followers, harm is difficult to judge. Some Followers advocate that no harm is caused by talking about friends without their knowledge so long as the friend in question does not find out and is not demeaned by what is told, while others argue that to commit a betrayal on any scale is harm that could be avoided. The common answer held by the Followers is that if an act is performed which causes no obvious physical or emotional harm to a friend or loved one, and the involvement of the Follower is never discovered, then the act is permissible. Thus, for example, taking on an assumed name and personality to gather information circumspectly about someone might not be wrong, so long as the Follower causes no more obvious type of harm while in that activity, and what they did is never discovered by that friend or loved one. This is not to say, of course, that such behavior is encouraged. Harm, by its very nature as an important factor in the question of What do you Want, is something which any Follower must closely consider.
Questions are the first, last, and most important tool used by the Followers in their exploration of the Universe. By asking the right questions to the right people at the right times, Followers believe that they gain insight into the Universe and into the people who comprise it. To this end, Followers ask six major questions as often as possible, of themselves and everyone else: who are you, what do you ant, why are you here, where are you going, who do you serve, and who do you trust. Followers are expected to ask themselves these questions constantly and are cautioned against ever thinking that they have a satisfactory answer, as believing they have an answer might stop them from asking themselves the question the next day, when the answer might have changed without them realizing.
Most Followers quickly discover that, fascinating as these six questions can be if used properly, they offer only limited insight into themselves, to say nothing of others. It is at this point that Followers are expected to reach a deeper understanding of the questions, in so far as that there are levels of questions. No single level is more or less significant than another. The second level of questions deals with the incompleteness of the first questions: who else are you, what else do you want, etcetera. The third level deals with perception: who do they think you are, what do they think you want, and so on. There are as many levels of questions as Followers feel capable of proceeding with, and any set of questions, or assortment of questions, can become the focus for a Follower's search for understanding.
To most Followers, the most important of the six Questions is the first: Who Are You. To this end, many Followers choose to study themselves in terms of Avatars, anthropomorphic representations of the chief aspects of their personality. In some cases, these representations are basic, as with Freud's own Id, Ego, and Super Ego made flesh: a Desperate Guy, a Filter Guy, and a personality caught in between. In other cases, these Avatars can form legions of images to represent a psyche. Commonly, these Avatars are formed from images deeply ingrained in an individual: characters from roleplaying games, characters from television shows, distorted images of the person themself, or even the Norse or Egyptian divine pantheons. The efficacy of this method of examining oneself is highly dependent on how much the Follower hopes to learn from the process; someone who expects to learn nothing will usually learn nothing.
Typically, examination of the Avatars leads to the Follower finding out a great deal about themselves, but there is almost always a sense of emptiness and incompleteness to this learning. What the Follower is expected to learn, be it over time or suddenly, as in a moment of epiphany, is that one's Avatars have Avatar's of their own. The highest level and most influential Avatars will rarely if ever be simple, one dimensional figures if the Follower has fully explored them, and once the Follower has learned enough from them, the Follower realizes that there is another level below that: the Avatars of their Avatars. This realisation invariably leads to the next level, the Avatars of their Avatars' Avatars, and so on. Few Followers explore these manifestations beyond the second level, but the simple knowledge that there is always a deeper level to the search brings great insight to the Follower.
Followers use confusion as a way of bringing about enlightenment, they highly prize an abstractly defined moment when they believe that someone reaches a new point in their understanding of the Universe. These moments are easy to spot, as they are the times when a person stops in mid sentence with surprise understanding, or suddenly reels back in disgust as they make up the punchline to a joke that was far worse than any the joke-teller would have told. Followers refer to this as the Moment of Dawning Recognition, the precise moment when someone's eyes widen in shock as they perceive something in a way they never have before. According to the Followers, at the moment that a person's eyes open, literally and figuratively, they can see into the person's soul. To the Followers, the Moment is one of the most highly prized experiences to watch, or better yet, to precipitate. It is for this reason that Followers tend to become enamored of puns and riddles.
One of the key fields of study of many Followers is endurance, because of its clear usefulness in daily life. The logic chain is as follows.
1) The Follower believes that, through the power of belief, he or she can change the Universe.
2) The Follower believes that a particular situation or circumstance is not unpleasant: that a cut does not hurt, that a room is not too warm or too cold, that they are not really as thirsty as they feel.
3) Therefore, if a Follower has sufficient discipline, the Follower should be able to endure a moderate amount of discomfort by force of will.
The effectiveness of this skill is subjective at best, as the Follower must believe in the change itself, believe that the change will work, and be able to focus their will during an already unpleasant circumstance. Followers who begin to be able to make use of their belief to endure more effectively find that their ability to deal with pain and discomfort improves significantly. Because it is a useful skill, Endurance becomes one of the few concrete examples of the Follower's capacity to change the Universe, or at least, their perception of it.
To the Followers, ritual is a vital aspect of the Path. The reason for this is simple: if faith is a focus for belief for many people, then rituals are an equaly powerful focus. Thus, most Followers have numerous and elaborate pseuo-religious/mystical rituals which they perform. In some cases, this may mean performing a little ceremony at a holiday, or perhaps simply shaking dice a certain way for good luck before throwing them. This ritualistic thinking is useful and entertaining, but is also dangerous for any Follower. If a Follower ever begins to find more meaning in the ritual than in the belief behind the ritual, as is the pitfall encountered by many organized religions, then the Follower must immediatly re-examine the rituals and see whether or not a mistake is being made. In the eyes of most Followers, to perform a ritual for the ritual's sake is worse than performing no ritual at all, akin to praying when one does not believe in any gods.
One of the most dangerous risks a Follower must face is also one of the least likely ones to be encountered: the risk of becoming a leader rather than a teacher. The main irony of the Path is the name of those who walk it: Followers. Those who Walk the Path are expected to walk the Path and not follow another upon it; Followers refer to themselves by this name as a reminder of this fact, that they follow a road and not a single leader. Should a Follower begin teaching the Path to others, however, the risk is great that the students will follow the teacher and not the road, and should this happen, the students would have been better off never setting foot upon the Path to begin with. A Follower must always remember that the key to the Path is to walk it in one's own way; one might find peace by following the road of another, but then it is not the Path of Forsteri.
One of the tools common to almost every Follower is a book of Quotations. Quotes serve two purposes for Followers. First, Followers tend to be of the same basic cultural background and share many of the same memes. A meme is an image or icon from popular culture which is so widespread as to be immediately recognizable to any large group of people, and to furthermore have the capacity to spread from one indifidual's conciousness to another's in a manner not unlike a virus. For example, a cross is a powerful meme, because it symbolizes a powerful organization to billions of people. Most memes are less potent but still easily recognized, and in the Followers' case, such memes might include imagery from Star Wars, Warner Brothers, or a host of other sources. Keeping a book of quotations allows Followers to quickly and efficiently recognize people of a similar cultural background and sense of the world; if the Follower meets someone able to quote large texts of Monty Python verbatim, the Follower can immediately learn a great deal about this person. This helps Followers identify other Followers or sympathetic thinkers.
Secondly, a book of quotations serves as yet another focus for the Follower. The act of keeping a book drives the Follower to watch things around themselves and be on guard for things to add. It drives the Follower to research great thinkers and writers from throughout history. It adds to the wisdom of the Follower, giving them a ready pool of phrases and wisdom to draw upon. And, lastly, it gives the Follower a basis from which to ask questions, by seeing what other thinkers have written and then asking their questions of these thoughts.
A Follower's book of quotations shines a light on the way in which the particular Follower pursues their questions. A Follower whose book is filled with philosophy demonstrates a more serious, insightful approach to their learning. A Follower whose book is filled with humor shows a less serious, more relaxed approach. Most commonly, a Follower's book is a mix of these two, entertaining and enlightening the Follower at the same time.
The Universe is what you allow it to be. If this document was dull or boring, if you disliked the contents or thought the ideas foolish, then by all means, dismiss it as the incoherent ramblings of an eccentric writer and get on with your life. We’ll all be happier that way. If however, any of the concepts or thoughts contained herein struck a chord within you, resounded deep inside your soul, or simply made you nod your head in understanding, then perhaps there is more to them than incoherent rambling. If there is a grain of truth to the Path of Forsteri, then it becomes as real as you allow it to be, and sense or nonsense, the Path may be awaiting someone to set foot upon it.