Merlin nodded slowly as he felt previously unsuspected puzzle pieces slotting into position. So that was the explanation — or part of the explanation, at least — for the openness, the sense of inclusiveness, which had attracted Nimue Alban to Charis and its society when she first set about seeking a proper base of operations.


            "Almost every Brother of Saint Zherneau is aware that our emphasis on personal relationships with God would not find favor with the Inquisition," Staynair continued. "But not one of them, to the best of our knowledge, has ever brought the philosophy of Saint Zherneau to the Inquisition's attention. And that, Merlin, is because there is something in most men which cries out to know God. To find that personal, direct relationship with Him. The Brethren of Saint Zherneau — all of the Brethren of Saint Zherneau — recognize that wellspring of personal faith and belief within themselves. And, although we never specifically address the point, all of them know it must be both protected and passed on."


            "And it's also the first line of defense, isn't it, Your Eminence?" Merlin said shrewdly.


            "Of course it is." Staynair smile was crooked. "As I say, very few of the Brethren have ever learned the full truth of Saint Zherneau's writings. But by protecting and preserving the portions of Saint Zherneau's teachings of which they are aware, they also protect and preserve the portion of which they are not aware. For reasons I'm sure you can understand, it's been necessary to limit complete knowledge to a relatively small number of people. That's been a problem for many of us over the centuries, because it goes against the grain to deceive, even if only by omission, those who are truly our brothers. Yet we've had no choice, and so the majority of the Brethren have always viewed our purpose as gradual reform — as teaching the clergy to truly serve the souls of God's children rather than the wealth and power of Mother Church.


            "Even that has scarcely been a safe mission over the years, of course. But many of our number, the majority of whom do not know of the existence of Zherneau's journal, have risen to relatively high positions in our local churches, and from those positions, they've sheltered and aided other Brethren of Saint Zherneau. Which is, of course, one reason why such a high percentage of our local priests were prepared to support our break with the Council of Vicars."


            "I can see that, too," Merlin agreed.


            "Don't misunderstand me, Merlin," Staynair said soberly. "When Zherneau's journal was first unsealed four hundred years ago, it was deeply shocking to the then Abbot. Only his own deep-seated faith in the teachings of Saint Zherneau kept him from doing one of the things you'd wondered about. He very seriously considered simply destroying all of it, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Even the 'mainstream Church' has a deep and abiding reverence for written testimony. That goes back to the original Adams and Eves who wrote The Testimonies, I suppose. And, of course, four hundred years ago, there were far fewer literate Safeholdians than there are today."


            Merlin nodded again. All of the original colonists had been literate, but as the decades and centuries passed in a society deliberately locked into muscle and wind power, with all of the hard labor required to support such a society, that universal literacy had disappeared. By and large — there had been exceptions, especially in the Church — only the upper classes had retained the leisure time to become literate. And as the ability to read and write had become less and less common, the reverence of the common (and illiterate) man and woman for the written records whose mysteries they could not penetrate had become paradoxically greater and greater.


            And that must have suited the Council of Vicars just fine, he thought grimly. In fact, 'Mother Church' may well have encouraged the trend, since the illiterate members of the Church became completely dependent upon their hierarchy to instruct them about the contents of those mysterious books they could no longer read for themselves. And that, in turn, became one more tool for strangling independence of thought in its cradle. On the other hand, the fact that literacy's been on the upswing again for a century or so is one of the reasons the wheels are threatening to come off their neat little mind-control machine, isn't it?


            "Despite the temptation to simply destroy the journal and other documents, he chose not to," Staynair said. "It must have been an incredibly difficult decision for him. But in addition to the journal itself, he had the letter Saint Zherneau had left for whoever finally unsealed the vault. And, of course, he had ample historical evidence to support the fact that Saint Zherneau had, indeed, been an Adam himself. That Saint Evahlyn had been an Eve. That, coupled with all of the public writings the two of them had left — including sections in The Testimonies — was enough to stop him from simply labeling the journal the ravings of a mad heretic. And the fact that he knew the books included with the journal had been sealed in the same vault for the better part of four hundred years proved they, too, must date from the Creation itself or immediately after it.


            "Or, of course," the archbishop's eyes bored into Merlin's, "from before it."


            Merlin nodded once again. Personally, he suspected Staynair was probably understating even now the incredible depth of the spiritual struggle that long ago Abbot of Saint Zherneau's must have faced. The degree of intellectual integrity it must have taken to make — and accept — the connections Staynair had just summarized so concisely in the face of every single word of the Church's official doctrine was difficult even to imagine.


            "Forgive me, Your Eminence," he said slowly, "and please, don't take this as any sort of attack. But with this journal, and the other documents in your possession, you've known all along that the Church's entire doctrine, all of its theology and teachings, are built upon a monstrous lie. Yet not only did you never denounce the lie, but you've actually supported it."


            "You would have made a splendid Inquisitor yourself, Merlin," Staynair said, his smile more crooked than ever. "I mean an Inquisitor of Father Paityr's sort, not that pig Clyntahn's, of course."


            "In what way, Your Eminence?"


            "You understand how to direct questions that force a man to look straightly at what he truly believes, not simply what he's convinced himself he believes.


            "In answer to your perfectly valid question, however, we must plead guilty, but with extenuating circumstances. As, I feel quite confident, you already understood before you asked.


            "Had we openly opposed Church doctrine, proclaimed that every word of the Holy Writ was a lie, we would merely have provoked the destruction of Charis centuries earlier. Perhaps the Inquisition might have settled for simply exterminating those who brought the disturbing message, but I think not. I think too much of Langhorne and Schueler's intolerance and . . . thoroughness clings to the Inquisition even today." The archbishop shook his head. "I've read Saint Zherneau's account of what truly happened in the destruction of the Alexandria enclave, what truly happened on the dreadful night when it was transformed into Armageddon Reef. I do not have the background to understand how simply dropping rocks could have had the effect Saint Zherneau describes, but I fully accept the accuracy of his testimony. And if the Inquisition of today lacks the rakurai, the Group of Four has just demonstrated that it continues to command swords in plenty.


            "So, since we dared not openly oppose the Church's lies lest we achieve nothing but the the destruction of the only evidence that they were lies, the Brethren of Saint Zherneau — those of the Brethren who knew the truth, at least — dedicated themselves to gradually building a different sort of Church here in Charis. Even that much constituted a deadly risk. We recognized that, eventually, the Inquisition would undoubtedly react as, in fact, Clyntahn has reacted. We'd hoped it wouldn't be this soon, and it probably wouldn't have been if Clyntahn hadn't become Grand Inquisitor. Yet he did, and we'd already pushed too far, made too many changes of which Mother Church disapproved. The truth of the matter is, Merlin, that Clyntahn has been right all along about the danger Charis poses to his precious orthodoxy. I rather doubt he's felt that way on the basis of any reasoned consideration of the evidence, but his instincts have not played him false where we are concerned."


About Eric Flint

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14 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 68

  1. Ben H says:

    Now if only Saint Zherneau’s had been a _militant_ Brotherhood, we’d have zealous Faithful to make things interesting.

    I’m just waiting for Staynair to find out about Nimue Alban. :D

  2. E says:

    Weber is really going to be driving Merlin into every corner of society here.
    Illiteracy as a problem means Merlin must devise a new schooling system, probably similar to the 3 Tier + system used in Europe and the US with mandated schooling at primary and secondary levels. Maybe a military academy for starters at the tertiary school level. West Point or bust!

    For some reason the fact that Staynair has assumed Merlin knows everything about St. Zherneau’s/Armageddon Reef seems a bit disconcerting. Shouldn’t Merlin be filling in some gaps? Ah well, maybe that’s for the next snippet.

  3. laclongquan says:

    MIlitary academy is nothing new under the sun. I am sure the whole planet must have one or two already. It serves too many purpose to be ignored.

    Comprehensive, thorough education system from year 5 to year 15, now that is hard, expensive and dangerous for current political systems to build. It immensely benefit to and from democracy, after all.

  4. RobertHuntingdon says:

    I’m wondering if the next snippet will contain Merlin either deliberately informing or having drug out of him the fact that the rakurai still exists, but that he doesn’t know if it can be used or not.

    Either way, however, this is certainly looking like the climax of the non-action portion of this book. So for those who were whining on Baen’s bar about the lack of action, I think they will find their wishes fulfilled very soon.


  5. kar says:

    first of all, you have to agree that “a good zealous group is a dead one”. With any fanatics, its hard to control them especially if you win. They’ll go for eradication of enemies or extremism. That would be social devolution. As for the schooling system, I think a basic “how to read” system initially is good. With that, you’ll get enough artisans and craftsmen who are capable of reading and teaching the next generation. The so called 3 tier system can’t work unless you have the money and facilities to carry it out. Right now, Charis is at war. In war, money is god. Education, even though its a potential weapon, can’t be the first weapon initially. Maybe later, it can take precedence. As for a military academy, I’m pretty sure Charis has something similar to it in the naval side of the works. Expanding it to the military/army will require experienced officers or enlisted personnel from real battles not mock formations. That’s why I said take a town in previous tags. The new weapons need people to understand how well they work in field conditions. To do that, you need some minor skirmishes on fields of battle. Lastly, I wonder how the priests kept it secret. Any organization will develop a leak somewhere along the line. A 400 year old legacy especially will have leaks. As far as I can tell, they must have their own assassins. Never trust organized religion. Someone will always be standing around ready to put a “knife” in your back.

  6. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    I actually disagree. the big news (the book) was locked away for most of the time, and even then very few people knew of its existance. And since most of the Charisian priests stayed put, they wouldn’t blab. Besides, he said the priests past through this group. they don’t stay. they join a larger order. Why would anyone think “hmm I bet that this really little group of priests in a really little monestary are the reason Charis is so annoying.” The Inquistion blamed them on the whole, not on where they were taught.

    Of course I could be wrong

  7. Steve Studley says:

    What is the Current Literacy Rate?, It says “And, of course, four hundred years ago, there were far fewer literate Safeholdians than there are today.”
    Not saying that the literacy rate is high, but it sounds much higher that at the time of the “enlightenment”.
    That churches were the reason many people have either been literate, do to a Need To Read The Word. Or the opposite, We Will Tell You How To Believe and been maintained illiteratacy has always been specific to the religious attitude of particular churches.
    What is the literacy rate in Charis compared to the areas closer to Zion? Be interesting to know?

  8. Yuri says:

    With more than 200 survivors from Alexandria enclave leaks are inevitable .Same sort of small organizations mast have existed in other countries
    It is impossible for inquisition to miss them all.
    Conclusion: High levels of the Inquisition knows that their religion is false ,but keep it secret.
    Clyntahn knows that even small doubt can lead to dangerous questions, that’s why he is so dangerous and despaired .

  9. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    could be, could be. Would make at least some sense, although I highly doubt it. Since Charis shows the most of these traits, I don’t doubt many of the other groups were discovered. this doesn’t mean the Inquistion would believe them to be true. Heresy is to be burned, not read. Or if read, at least not to be believed. Besides, even if they read it, why would they pass it down through the heads unless it was a number 1 priority, which it wasn’t for a long time.

  10. E says:

    Firstly, if the inquisition kept any heretical texts, they would do so for the purpose of referencing other heretical texts for similarities. Secondly, the doubt caused by such heresy would keep the actual truth hidden within upper echelons that would rely on reports by ignorant subordinates to compare.

    If Clyntahn is the leader of the Inquisition, then he has access to heretical texts if they are held. If he wants the texts to be untrue, it would explain his unreasonable hatred of places such as Siddarmark and Charis.

    The fact that 200 people escaped Alexandria probably indicates that there are more monastic orders out there. I personally believe now that Paityr might know the truth, given his family’s access to the truth telling cube it might be that another Alexandrian went to his family and told them the truth. The tangent theories are endless. :)

    The assumption that it is impossible for an inquisition to miss 200 enclaves depends on the notion that after Shan Wei the enclaves knew what it was that was being preserved. If, as in the case of Zherneau’s, the orders were founded before truth was revealed then it is more likely that the Inquisition could miss 200 hidden enclaves. It will be interesting to see how the other escapees decided to handle their knowledge. Most likely they are directly responsible for the Siddarmark Republic; keep the method of Democracy alive so that theocratic institutes and monarchies are not the only known form of government.

    Lastly, I believe this is the climax of the boring bits. Merlin had better go rock face on some conservative terrorists or I will use all my voodoo strength to send someone a really bad headache.

    El Pollo Diablo was here.

  11. MarkR says:

    Other orders yes, enclaves no. The 212 people were spread out to at most about 50 other existing enclaves given that only 4 were settled in Tellesberg. They had to be existing because no small group could have survived alone and a new enclave made up of most of them would have been noticed and destroyed.

    I like the idea that Siddarmark was helped to its current state based on traditions started by some reeducated Adams and Eves. As for Paityr, his family may have received its truth stone from such people, in order to prevent witch hunts of innocents, but I doubt they know the truth.

    And I’d actually like more ‘boring bits’ if they had actual world building like how they’re going to use advanced sophisticated water power to greatly increase productivity without violating the proscriptions.

  12. kar says:

    ummm… so in conclusion…. up the revolution!!!!!…. time to return the favor to the inquisition. I liked the idea from the novel 1632 where they decide to use napalm to repay old debts. Interesting is it not. I mean cannons are nice and all, but imagine napalm being used in any future naval battles on Safehold. Sooner or later Charis will be outnumbered in naval power. A raid launched with napalm as the central weapon could knock out whatever “fleets” the temple lands put together.

  13. Yuri says:

    Do you realize that Haarald must have known the truth .
    It practically says so in the first book.

  14. kari says:

    What you folks consider the ‘boring parts’ are actually my favorites. I’m interested in reading more about the reactions a person has to having what they ‘know’ turned upside down. Or in how does a person go about exposing a whole new history and even universe to someone. Remember, the idea of the Ptolemaic – ‘earth’ centric universe has to be debunked for anyone to accept the idea of a Stellar Federation in the first place. Consdering that %50+ Americans refuse the theory of Evolution and prefer the literal reading of Genesis makes it very hard. Heck 3 of the 9 Republican Pres. candidates showed in a debate they didn’t believe in Evolution.

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