– My Wisdom, I have a question for you.
– Ask away if you must, my dearest.
– What is the origin of good and evil?
– Such questions are like kicks from a stabled horse, hurtful and never unprovoked. Who has inspired you to ask that?
– A priest of the Nine, who preaches in the market.
– Very well. I imagine that this priest has already offered an answer to you, as they often do.
– Yes, My Wisdom. But I have doubts about what he preaches.
– Explain to me, what did this priest tell you?
– He began by reminding us that we live on the bones of divinities. That we live, breathe and die in divine power made matter. This is surely known by everyone, but then the priest built his case on top of this fact. He said that the bones of Mundus are not passive observers, but principled beings who compel us to action. Akatosh instructs us to be dutiful and loyal, Dibella impels us to pursue the fairest truths, and Julianos demands that we be just while Stendarr implores that such justice be merciful. The priest argued that, since these principles are woven into the fabric of Mundus, they intrinsically are the reason for Mundus’ existence and the way to its fullest realization. So he said: “good is what follows the principles of the Divines, which are the principles of Mundus, and anything against these principles is evil”. This he said to me and others and this I tell you now.
– A compelling conclusion. Certainly at first glance such principles as justice, kindness and the pursuit of beauty do really seem to be worthy of being considered as good.
– Then is the preacher right, My Wisdom?
– My dearest, if the preacher was right I would be donning the woollen robes of a monk instead of my silky tunics. No one would deny that my wine glass if half full right now, but if someone said that it is so because it rained on it they would be a fool. The priest’s conclusion seems credible, but the way he has achieved it, not so much.
– Tell me what he lies about, so I can make the truth known to everyone.
– Truth, lies, everyone else. Haven’t I taught you that wisdom has nothing to do with boring concepts? Oh, but not only you say such dreadful words but you go and offend me, my dearest. What a horrible teacher do you think I am that you come here begging me for answers instead of questions! Still, I will indulge you. You’ve told me that the Divines have principles. Tell me, my dearest, how do we know?
– The priests and both holy and profane texts say so.
– Say I valued murder, and while holding such value I pursued a career as a priest and wrote one of those fancy footnoted texts where I creatively interpreted other fancy diatribes to mean that Mara desires that we murder each other. Can we believe the priests when they talk to us about aedric principles? Could we get Mara to disprove me? Would there be anything other than a mortal-made text to contradict my also mortal-made work?
– I guess not, My Wisdom.
– Oh, but, alas, we have shot the messenger, yet not burnt the message. Indeed the priests cannot tell us the principles of these Aedra, but that doesn’t mean that they are unprincipled. Tell me, my dearest, where are the Aedra?
– They are everywhere and nowhere. They are the world we inhabit as their divine power is made material truth. All in Mundus is Aedric and Aedric is all there is in Mundus.
– That would be adequate. So if these bones of the earth, muscles of the sea, and tissue of the air were to have principles that emanate from themselves, wouldn’t we find those principles in our dear Mundus and nothing else?
– That would be the correct outcome, My Wisdom.
– And yet we see in our miserable little existence murders without Mephala needing to intervene, unfair deals without Clavicus Vile brokering them, domination where Molag Bal is not seen, decadence without the need of Namira. All those acts must be either be sanctioned by the principles of the Aedra, or at least tolerated by those same principles, as Mundus is built of pure Aedric nature. You see, my dearest, if the preacher were to be right and we ought to act according to the principles of the Aedra, anything that occurs without intervention of one of those foreign princes would be right. Are you willing to accept this conclusion?
– No, My Wisdom. Not all that can happen is good.
– You satisfy me, as you reach a higher understanding, yet you worry me. Why this frown when there ought to be the satisfaction of a revelation?
– My Wisdom, I am starting to worry that there might not be a source for good and evil, and we can say nothing is one or the other with certainty.
– Oh, my dearest, do not despair.
– But I must, My Wisdom. Is there no meaning in Mundus? Is there no meaning on the Aubris? Is there nothing we can call a source of good and evil?
– I propose you a challenge, my dearest. Try to do something without a reason, something without any intention put in it. Now. Oh, I never could have guessed you were such an accomplished acrobat. Yes, casting a light spell on an already illuminated tent seems quite foolish, indeed. My, my, where did you learn this dance? Stop, stop, please, you are most amusing but sadly your education must take a priority right now. So, my dearest, did you do all of this without reason or motive?
– Yes, My Wisdom.
– And that’s where you are wrong, for your motivation for all that foolishness was to prove that I was wrong, failing to notice that you were proving me right. Even those tainted by the Mad Prince do not perform their lives without purpose, but simply their purposes and motivations have been warped and deformed. And speaking of the Mad Prince, not even he and his ilk are able to escape acting meaningfully. The actions of the Daedra seek to empower themselves, expand themselves, assert themselves or amuse themselves, they might seem cruel or unnecessary objectives to us, but, alas, there is always intent after all. Nothing in the whole Aubris escapes this truth.
– Then good is what furthers our purposes? Forgive me, My Wisdom, but at first sight it seems wrong.
– You are correct to doubt, for the origin of good and evil in this house of Mundus is not found in its denizens or its walls and floors, but rather in the cement that holds everything together. The Aedra may be the material, but not the architects. Mundus was created by someone, you already know who, with a purpose and an intention in mind. Everything in Mundus has been made as to pursue this intention; even whatever hinders the path to the objective exists so the path to the objective can exist. If something furthers the objective of the architect it is good, if not it is bad. That is the truth.
– May I ask, My Wisdom, what is this divine objective?
– Come close, my dearest, for I am about to whisper you a terrible secret that only your ear may hear. I hope you are ready, for it is going to change your view of all you see completely and warp your understanding of what surrounds you so much, that you might become a fool through the wisdom imparted on you.
– I am ready, My Wisdom. Tell me, what is the objective of Mundus from which good and evil emanate?
– I don’t know.“Vaermina’s Priest” | Illustration by aihito, DeviantArt