Exalted: Dragon-Blooded the Devils Journey
The Immaculate Order emphasizes several core concepts to those who would follow its teachings. There are five Noble Insights that all students must understand and internalize in order to be truly counted among the faithful. It also teaches the five Diligent Practices that the faithful must undertake in order to embody the teachings of the Order. Through Noble Insight and Diligent Practice, an adherent to the Immaculate Philosophy is ennobled and elevated, made closer to the perfection of the Immaculate Dragons.
The Noble Insights
The core concepts of Immaculate belief are signified by the Noble Insights. These concepts are absolute across Immaculate orthodoxy. All sub-traditions of the Immaculate Philosophy believe these to be true, though they might not all agree on the best ways in which to incorporate them and might have differing conclusions about them. Ultimately, the Noble Insights teach Cooperation, Reincarnation and Perfection.
The First Noble Insight
All beings in Creation are constantly dying and being reborn, ascending and descending the Road of Enlightenment. Those who are Exalted are very close to the end of the Road, while insects and plants are near the beginning. Most sentient mortals are somewhere near the middle.
To mortals, this Insight is essential for understanding their place in Creation. The First Noble Insight brings clarity and an understanding of one’s place. Only those who understand their intended role may successfully perform that role.
Likewise, this Insight is what gives the Dragon-Blooded the right to rule in matters both secular and religious. Exalted adherents are taught, however, that this isn’t privilege, but responsibility. Even those Exalted to the Dragons have not completed their walk. It is simply that the heights of the journey are in sight.
The Second Noble Insight
As beings approach the end of the Road, they approach the infinite perfection of Essence that is the Elemental Dragons, who hold Creation together.
To mortals, this is the promise of one day Exalting as part of the Dragon-Blooded Host, and of being born into one of the Great Houses. Literally, this is the promise of a fine, high life of wealth and power for those who live according to the Perfected Hierarchy. It is also the unspoken agreement between lord and peasant: Obedience to the nobility is not simply expected, but a compact through successive lives. If a lord does not behave in ways appropriate to his station, he will not return as a lord. Likewise, if a peasant is faithful, respectful and obedient, he will be rewarded for this diligence by being elevated to a higher station in the next life.
To the Dragon-Blooded, this Insight emphasizes the importance of their position. They are not merely powerful overlords—they share in the power and responsibility of holding together the very fabric of Creation. Those who do not hold to this ultimate responsibility will not be reborn to it, until they prove themselves after lifetimes of mortality.
The Third Noble Insight
Working in solitude and striving to surpass their lot in life, all beings in Creation draw away from the perfection of the Elemental Dragons. Working together and accepting their present incarnations, all beings in Creation mimic the Elemental Dragons and approach their perfection.
To mortals, this is the understanding that in acceptance comes enlightenment. By acknowledging their place in society and working hard to best master their skills and succeed in what is expected of them, they work to hold the very fabric of Creation together. By doing so—by finding holiness and perfection in even being a humble street-sweeper, for instance—mortals can prove their dedication to Creation and earn a greater responsibility over it in successive lives.
To the Dragon-Blooded, this is an admonition to work toward building civilization and empire. Allowing chaos and strife to enter into a thing of great order opens the gates to the Wyld, allowing it to erode the very fabric of Creation. It is why a cruel and dishonest Dragon-Blood who works within the system is more highly regarded than a kind and wise one who departs to live his life alone somewhere in the Threshold.
The Fourth Noble Insight
The Dragon-Blooded, who were the disciples and children of the mortal incarnations of the Elemental Dragons, are leading the Immaculates toward that degree of perfection.
To mortals, this Insight is what grants the Dragon-Blooded families the right to rule. It is proper to follow those who are the children of the Immaculate Dragons. Who better to teach how to properly emulate the Dragons but their own children? It is also proper to follow the wisest. By dint of their Exaltations and long lives, the Dragon-Blooded are the ones who are wise in drawing closer to the Essence of the Immaculate Dragons.
To the Exalted of the Dragons, this is the statement of utmost responsibility. It is why the Immaculate Order frowns on greedy and intemperate Dynastic Dragon-Blooded, for they are not providing proper examples. It is too easy for base human nature to poison the carefully gathered wisdom and enlightenment of lifetimes of service with such distractions. Dragon-Blooded who are not aware of their duty in leading mortals toward behavior that will elevate them are not worthy of their Exaltation.
The Fifth Noble Insight
The Anathema, who reject the Elemental Dragons and obey only their own ambitions, are drawing Creation toward despair and ruin.
To mortals, this is precautionary. To obey one’s own selfish ambition is the way of the Anathema, who are demons. The faithful of the Immaculate Order are taught to expect the Anathema to be glorious and winsome. They are demons in their ultimate aims, not in their direct actions. They might heal, teach and praise mortals, but ultimately, they are feeding their own ambition. They pull men and women away from their proper role in this lifetime, away from lessons that the soul must learn on its way to Exaltation.
To the Dragon-Blooded, this Insight is the basis for the Wyld Hunt. If, as the Children of the Dragons, they acknowledge that they share in the responsibility for keeping Creation whole and sound, then they must fight against that which would destabilize it.
The Diligent Practices
The Diligent Practices provide the framework for correct action in the Immaculate Philosophy. Simple belief is not enough—the faithful live their beliefs through correct action.
The First Diligent Practice
Hear a recital of an Immaculate Text at least once a month, in the company of at least 17 other followers of the Philosophy.
In hearing the words of the Immaculate Dragons and those who were closest to them, the faithful discover words of wisdom when they need them. The sutras that make up the Immaculate Texts are not simply words of spirituality, they apply to all elements of the life of mortals. They act as a guide toward the Higher Road that leads to Exaltation.
The requirement that the Immaculate Text be heard in the company of others emphasizes that community and commonality are the foremost practices of the devoted. By working together to understand their purpose, mortals and Exalted alike grow to understand their respective places in Creation, which strengthens the ties of Creation itself.
The Second Diligent Practice
Respect and honor spirits only according to the calendar and in the specific rites set down by the Immaculate Order, giving each spirit its due only insofar as it serves the harmony of Creation. Worship no spirit, elemental, small god or Anathema at all.
As the ties that hold Creation together, it is the proper duty of mortals to contribute to the power of the Celestial and Terrestrial Bureaucracies. But the gods and spirits of the world do not have the right to rule the lives of mortals. Gods have their duties as surely as mortals and Exalts do, and to try to gather power over things that are not under their aegis is wrong and prideful. Therefore, the Immaculate Order is careful to shield mortals from the undue influence of godly beings.
The Immaculate Order teaches that the Dragon-Blooded are the only ones spiritually strong enough to deal with powerful gods and spirits without being corrupted by them. Therefore, it is forbidden for mortals to engage in actual worship of individual gods. Instead, mortals may participate in the rites that glorify the gods as a whole, while Dragon-Blooded monks tend to the individual rites of the Hundred Gods (the name for the multitude of divinities in Creation and Heaven).
For this reason, the Immaculate Order is aniconic. The mistrust of animal symbols dates back to the First Age, when many animals were associated with the cults of the Unconquered Sun or Luna, and it has evolved into a general cultural prohibition against the depiction of gods. Only in the temples of those gods may statuary or depictions be erected, and they may be shown only when a Dragon-Blooded monk is performing their rites. All other times, they are locked away and hidden from view.
It is also considered ill luck to depict the Immaculate Dragons, who are best represented with their simple mon symbols. There is no prohibition against depiction of the Elemental Dragons, however, for they are so transcendent that human worship is irrelevant.
The Third Diligent Practice
Imitate in word and deed the honorable behaviors of the five Immaculate Dragons, the mortal incarnations of the Dragons of the Elements. Emulate the thoughts appropriate to your incarnation as decreed by the Immaculate Dragons.
This is the core for all morality and ethical behavior to adherents of the Immaculate Philosophy. Mortals are expected to try to emulate all of the Immaculate Dragons, when and where they can. Self-reliance, adherence to tradition and restraint, compassion, the search for perfection, the holiness of hard work: These are the true virtues of the Immaculate adherent.
The Dragon-Blooded are assumed, by tradition, to emulate one Immaculate Dragon above others. Most of the time, this is the Dragon that corresponds to their aspect. A Fire Aspect manifests spiritual spontaneity and rebelliousness in his very anima, so the teachings of Hesiesh will likely benefit him the most. Sometimes, however, that is not the case. In some instances, a monk might suggest to a Dragon-Blood that she seek out the teachings of one of the other Immaculate Dragons.
The Fourth Diligent Practice
Obey the Dragon-Blooded, who are the descendants and disciples of the Immaculate Dragons and are so close to enlightenment that their commands cannot cause a soul to stray from the Road.
There are those among the Dragon-Blooded who claim that this Diligent Practice demonstrates the innate righteousness of the Dragon-Blooded. Certainly, that is what the Immaculate Order teaches the un-Exalted who follow its beliefs. In truth, though, those Dragon-Blooded who learn anything about the Immaculate Faith are taught that this Diligent Practice does not mean that all of the Terrestrial Exalted’s whims and commands are righteous. It simply means that while one of the Princes of the Earth may command a man to take unrighteous action, men will not be led astray by obeying that command. It is the proper place of mortals to obey the Exalted, and in the fulfillment of that destiny, men draw closer to the Essence of the Dragons.
The Immaculate Order emphasizes to its Exalted adherents, however, that they are still responsible for making sure that their commands are righteous and proper, in keeping with the proper order of Creation. In short, while the commands that one of the Dragon-Blooded Host gives to a mortal cannot draw that mortal away from enlightenment, it can pull the Dragon-Blood further from it.
The Fifth Diligent Practice
Resist the commands of the Anathema to the fullest degree of the abilities of your present incarnation, and do not fall into despair.
This Diligent Practice emphasizes two things: the understanding of the terrible sway of the Anathema, and the fact that mortals have only so much resistance to them. For this reason, the Immaculate Order considers those mortals who follow the Anathema to be as much victims as those the Anathema slay. In either case, what can mere mortals do to stymie the will of such demons?
Of course, by this token, those Dragon-Blooded who fall to the sway of the Anathema are responsible for their own weakness. They carry the Essence of the Dragons and are heirs to the blood of those who overthrew the Anathema once, at the height of their power. The Immaculate Order’s orthodoxy has no pity for those who fail to resist the demons, though those who have actually encountered the Anathema before are more likely to understand, given the power of the demons that possess them.