The Unity Canons (Imperial Language: Virass-samoret) are collections of the writings of Markus - the Empire's founding Emperor, who became its patron deity - as compiled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (the Empire's state church) in its earliest days following his death and ascension.
The Unity Canons are scripture in the sense that they are considered sacred and authoritative writings by the Empire. However, unlike what our world - especially the West - thinks of as scripture, the majority of these texts deal in mundane matters: codes of ethics and conduct, dietary laws, etc. There is subject matter within the writings on everything from how to live an ethical life, to systems of martial arts, to 'proper' forms of architecture and a code of military conduct.
As mentioned above, the Canons were only created after Markus's death. They are collections of his writings organized according to their content, themes and subject matter. In other words, each 'Book' in a given Canon was originally a text unto itself that he wrote independently, although many were intended at the time of their authorship to complement others.
The Greater CanonsEdit
The most sacred and important of the Canons, dealing with the broadest scope of subject matter. These could be considered akin to the Torah of Judaism or the Gospels of Christianity: the foundations of the Imperial religion, way of life, government, society and worldview. In some cases, multiple Canons are grouped into a Nas-Kethiniränor. The word Kethiniräne, rendered in English as 'Omnibus', means 'Groups of Writings' - it is the noun Kethinn (writing, text or work [of an author]), pluralized with -ir- plus the collectivizing particle -än- (which makes it a collective plural, i.e. treated as singular) [the 'e' at the end is its infinitive form and is dropped whenever noun case endings are added]. When the term is used specifically in the context of Markus's Canons, the prefix particle Nas- is added, making it a proper noun, and feminine case endings are conventionally used. This distinguishes a Canonical Omnibus from omnibuses in the generic sense, which customarily take neuter forms.
List of the Greater CanonsEdit
- Canon of the Spirit - forms the basis of the Imperial religion and lays down its theology. The doctrines of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (the Imperial Church) are largely extrapolated directly, or indirectly interprited, from this Canon, with the assistance of the others to provide further insight, clarification and commentary. The Imperial religion is - strictly speaking, in its orthodox form - henotheistic: Markus himself is considered the supreme and the patron deity of the Empire, its government, church and people. The other two primary deities are the goddesses Mara and Morgen, worship of whom was already established tradition centuries before Markus's mortal birth. The belief in and worship of other gods / goddesses is not prohibited or frowned upon, although the majority of the modern Empire's population venerates only these three primary / orthodox deities and observance of others is generally seen as 'foreign'. Markus does not directly write of his ascension to godhood in this work, only implies it - laying down the 'path' that his people should follow after he is gone. It establishes the basic soteriology of the Imperial religion. The traditional view is that Markus rewards those who live a good life by saving them from 'true death' by bringing them into the afterlife, which is thought to be the infinite alternate reality where he, the other gods and the various metaphysical beings dwell. All others, upon physical death at the end of their [mortal] lives, simply die. The exact nature of this is the subject of much debate - i.e., whether humans have a 'soul' separate from their material persons, whether or not the reward applies only to the Imperial people who have knowledge of the Canons' teachings or to all humans, whether or not it is also granted retroactively to those who lived before Markus's mortal birth, whether it is literally being transported to an actual separate reality, etc. The Church, for its part, does not strictly enforce adherence to a particular side in these matters, although its ordained representatives may hold particular positions and favor them.
- Canon of the Body - deals with proscriptions for physical healthiness, proper living / care for one's physical self and for maintaining a 'positive' outward appearance. It touches on subjects such as dietary laws, the use of intoxicants, sexual practices, exercise, the maintenance of one's physical appearance, general rules concerning health, etc. Unlike the dietary laws of most real world religions, this Canon does not outright prohibit in most cases and does not proscribe abstinance with regards to sexual activity or substance consumption. Rather, it is primarily concerned with avoidance of things which are unhealthy or dangerous. The most significant part of the dietary laws is the Nas-Hakatan, which is a method - in the form of a ritual - to 'properly' slaughter and inspect animals for food as well as to subsequently prepare the meat for consumption. The intended purpose of this rite - which must be done by someone trained in administering it - is to ensure a quick and relatively compassionate death, as well as to keep the Imperial people (who at the time of the Canons' writing were still largely ignorant of such things) from ingesting parts of an animal not condusive to human consumption or just generally unhealthy, i.e. especially fatty. The law also discusses how to prepare the meat so as to avoid ingesting blood (a major medium of disease) - including a recipe for a vinegar-based solution in which the meat must be soaked to draw out, and drain it of, said vital fluid. Examples of animals which are outright forbidden to be used as food include scavangers (i.e. vultures), wild dogs and any creature which is diseased, wounded or showing signs of physical deformities / abnormalities. Also, obviously, any meat that was not prepared and slaughtered according to the Nas-Hakatan rite cannot be eaten. The sections on intoxicant / substance consumption are largely just proscriptions to avoid 'over-indulgence' and guidelines for doing this, although specificities on the creation of alcohol are provided so as to avoid poisoning one's self (i.e. it essentially bans 'bootlegging'). The only sexual practice specifically prohibited is engaging in intercourse with a menstrating woman: homosexual intercourse, adultery and premerital sex, unlike in our Abrahamic religions, are not touched upon (although adultery is heavily discouraged and frowned upon in other Canons and pre-merital sex regarded as 'less than ideal').
- Canon of the Mind - concerns ethics, philosophy and mental health as well as one's worldview, thoughts and emotions. Rather similar to our own world's Buddhist and Confucian philosophies.
- Canon of Deed - concerns proper interaction with others and with the external world. Many portions proscribe something similar to Utilitarianism - i.e., the right thing to do in a given situation is the action that brings the most happiness to the largest number of people. Other things, such as harming / killing others (and animals, except for sustinence), are expressly forbidden apart from rather strict criteria.
- Canon of Authority - delineates the structure, operation, principles and roles of the Imperial government
- Esoteric Canon - provides additional ethical / moral principles and guidelines of living for those in positions of authority within Imperial society - i.e., politicians, members of the clergy, military officers, the nobility, bureaucrats and the wealthy. There is a 'Book' within this Canon for each type of authority figure. Many of its individual books are also incorporated into the Lesser Canons where the subject matter overlaps.
List of the Lesser CanonsEdit
- Canon of War - one of the Largest of all of the Canons, only considered a 'Lesser Canon' by dent of the narrow scope of its subject matter. The Canon of War could be compared to Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' in so far as its enfluence within Imperial society - it is the most revered and most supreme text within the highly-professionalized field of Imperial military matters. The Empire treats the preparation, fighting and maintenance of warfare as a science and studies every aspect of it in a highly academic manner with an expansive arsenal of literature and thought - all of which is in some way extrapolated from or at least pays difference to this particular work. This Canon speaks largely in a broad, sweeping manner and outlines principles so as to avoid becoming outdated with the advancement of tehnology: battles and specific aspects of war as they were in Markus's mortal lifetime are only mentioned when giving examples is necessary. Like the Art of War, the Canon of War places considerable emphasis on the avoidance of actual combat through means of diplomacy, deception and the out-maneuvering of enemy forces. This principle, as the text emphasizes, is fundamental because even in the days of Markus, Imperial armies tended to be heavily out-numbered (and the late Emperor assumed, prophetically, that this would continue to hold true long into the future). Great importance is given to reconnaissance and scouting as well as humility on the part of commanders, so that they might make an accurate assessment of not only their enemy's strengths and weaknesses, but their own as well. Other portions of the writing deal with the common soldier and proscribe a strict code of morality and ethics for the maintenance of proper moral and discipline. Because of this, dessertion in the Imperial military is considered a religious- rather than a civil - offence, the punishment for which is beheading by the priest of the offending soldier's unit. Portions of the Canon advocating tactical as well as strategic outmaneuvering of enemy troops and the rigorous study of an enemy's culture, philosophy and religion - so as to better understand their mindset and thus predict their actions - tend to be neglected in modern Imperial military thought, in favor of over-reliance on the superiority of the Empire's technology and the superb quality of its individual soldiers.
- Ecclesiastical Canon - concerns the foundations of religions and its role within Imperial society. Makes proscriptions on the structure of the Imperial Church, on the proper construction of temples and places of worship, on its essential 'social mission' as well as its spiritual roles and on matters of internal policing (i.e. what to do with corrupt or divergent members of the clergy). The Imperial church places much emphasis on observance of tradition and its religious laws, as well as on caring for the less fortunate (a role which has been supplanted to a significant degree by the modern Imperial government through universally-available medical services and support programs for the poor / financially insolvent).
- Canon of Action - deals with various aspects of the day-to-day lives of average citizens, both communally as well as individually. Proscribes the Imperial Martial Arts system known as Elänentameran and generally expands upon the principles of living outlined within the Greater Canons. This Canon places great emphasis upon the necessity of social / communal interaction for the purpose of collective growth and betterment, and on the necessity of Direct Democracy for the citizenry in maintaining proper & just government.
- Canon of History - essentially an annal of early Imperial history and of Markus's lifetime. It primarily covers the wars leading up to the Empire's foundation and the nation during his reign. This is generally taken to be the last Canon, chronologically, to have been written, as it covers everything almost up to the time of the late Emperor's death.
- Canon of Knowledge - outlines the foundations and principles of science, learning and other studies. This particular text is generally attributed as being one of the main factors behind Imperial success and technological superiority. It proscribes everything from a metric system to a scientific method and records various key technologies which Markus bequeathed to his people, such as printing presses and the creation of steel. From this writing, various important aspects of Imperial culture are derived - such as the nation's obsession with accurate record-keeping and effective organizing of information.