The big baddies of the Warpmancer Universe, like any three-dimensional entity, isn’t some basic evil formed in a vacuum. Like in reality, everyone and everything finds its inspiration and origin in a philosophy. The Imperial Council and their founding races are no different.
It is very rare for the villain to think of themselves as one. For the Edal and Ulyx who lead the Imperial Council, they are heroes. While some may acknowledge their crimes, they have greater goods to absolve themselves.
But what is this philosophy? What is the Imperial Doctrine? And what real world Earth philosophies inspired these ideas?
The Edal, the ancient and beautiful warrior race that provides the viciousness to contrast with the Ulyx’s cold calculation, are not based in a philosophy of violence. War is their culture, but the philosophy behind their war is much more peaceful.
The Edal believe in an ideal state – a utopia that needs to be preserved. While many human utopianists believe we must still work towards a utopia, the dominant Edal philosophy is that there was or is an ideal state and that the goal of life is preservation, not progress.
The specifics of this society are not clear, and that is probably fortunate. If the society was formalised, the police state of the Edal would probably crush countless contravening individuals. Rather, this ideal state is a vague idea of aesthetics, technology and loyalty to the Martyrs and the Council.
Psychologically, this desire for preservation is probably wrought from a cultural fear of change. The political class are victims of this as well. Only a few rulers, probably some of the Martyrs, have probably ever considered that the Edal’s obsession with the purity of the now is a bit arbitrary.
The Ulyx depart from their conservative allies and become much more utilitarian. While the Edal have established unassailable doctrine, the Ulyx have a very basic principle that governs their intergalactic politics – peace.
It must seem very ironic to think of peace being a governing tenet of the Imperial Doctrine. The Edal are very much not peaceful. “Degora ten Alka,” is a common Edal adage and oath, meaning: “Glory in War.” Practically meaning: one can only find glory and meaning through war.
The Ulyx are different. They believe the goal of war to be a lack of it. For centuries before encountering the Edal, the Ulyx had explored the stars and observed countless conflicts. The dominant belief came to form that these conflicts needed to be stopped and the only way to do this was through sheer force.
The Ulyx principle is: peace through the sword.
The Ulyx befriended the Edal not to join their crusade, but to use them as the sword that would bring peace to the galaxy.
As a result of these two philosophies, Imperial Doctrine formed to highlight the importance of hierarchy and order. Edal society is feudal and Ulyx society is based on rule by science-political class. Both have sacrificed freedom for the preservation of an ideal state and the pursuit of peace.
In the real world
As the Imperial Council’s beliefs didn’t form in a vacuum, neither did mine. Imperial culture and philosophy finds three major inspirations in philosophy and history, besides the very obvious aesthetic connection to the Roman Empire.
The Edal find their inspiration in Plato’s idea of the perfect state. Plato believed in the rule of a Philosopher King over society. This is found in the Ulyx society, but also in Edallic society. Councillors are basically philosophers, but they all share a common creed.
This isn’t far detached from Plato’s idea of a perfect society. Plato wasn’t a liberal. He believed that there was one right ideology and that it needed to be enforced. He also believed that there was an ideal state of society and that it needed to be preserved.
As garnered from Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies, Plato believed that the only good progress was a return to the perfect society that humans had lost. Edal are similar. They believe that they had once achieved perfection and that their goal is to maintain it as much as possible. There is no interrogation of their ideas or realities – only unquestionable loyalty to stasis.
The Ulyx’s ideology of peace and order comes from an English philosopher named Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes proposed the idea of a leviathan, a super-state or ruler that is so powerful that they can maintain peace and order and prevent society from devolving into what Hobbes called “a state of nature”.
Both these ideologies are actually pretty congruent. The Edal want to preserve an ordered society and the Ulyx want peace within this ordered society. But how is this deeper philosophy achieved on a cultural level?
Despite their aesthetics being based off Rome, the Edal are heavily based off Imperial Japan. They subscribe to an overwhelming doctrine of duty and a hierarchy based off responsibility and servitude. The relationship between ruler and ruled in Edallic society isn’t based off capriciousness, but a mutual understanding of everyone’s natural place in the world.
In Imperial Japan, the Emperor wasn’t a God. He was a man who was just as much a servant to custom and culture than every other Japanese citizen. The same goes for Edal society. The Warp-lords and Councillors may hold land, but they are expected to protect and lead their people. Filfs have very few rights, but it is expected that they are protected and that they are not wastefully expended.
Like Imperial Japan, there is a space for everyone in Edallic society – as long as you do your duty and follow the doctrine.
Like humanity, the Edal and Ulyx are not unitary. Individuals within the races and society have disagreements. Attentive readers may notice quotes within my books by Ulyx and Edal sounding individuals speaking of very un-Imperial ideas.
While there is no freedom of speech or thought in Imperial territory, space is big. Edal and Ulyx free thinkers often escape to Free Space, where they find jobs as academics in human and Exanoid society.
Jherin Kura’kaia, mentioned a few times throughout the series, is an Ulyx economist and philosopher renowned for his ideas of galactic commerce. He is a free market libertarian who argues for the opening of as many societies as possible to peaceful trade.
Jherin would have been killed if he had stayed in Imperial territory. On Mars, he is safe to preach his ideas of liberty and commerce.
His brethren still located in Imperial Space are not so lucky.
Did you enjoy this expose of Imperial Philosophy? What other aspects of Warpmancer Lore would you like to learn about? Please let me know in the comment section below.