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The Philosophy of the Tremere

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by: DreamKeeper

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archived article from Sanguinus Curae


Greatest of the clans of the Camarilla -- if I may say so, which I do, so I may -- is the clan of Tremere. We, who took the glory of eternal existence from the cold grasp of the infernal Saulot and his childer. We, who tore away knowledge of undeath from the corrupt fists of the Tzimisce. It is the childer of Tremere, the subjects of the Pyramid, who gathered knowledge of Thaumaturgy from the wastes that were previously mere vitae-filled veins. And we, the Warlocks, who, to this night, serve as the backbone of the Camarilla.

As is right, therefore, we of Clan Tremere have a philosophy that is stricter in form than that of any other clan. For without such stricture, the power that flies through our blood would be nigh unmanageable. Though the Setites, Tzimisce and others play at magic, we alone, the magi of House Tremere, understand the effort necessary to master the magic -- the principles that exist behind the mere workings. As has become a watchword for some, "Sciencia est potentia -- Knowledge is power."

On the Metaphysics of Warlocks

From the diary of Margaret Tindell, deceased, Adeptus quintus:

"I have begun to develop a theory, and one that shall, I hope, lead to the Truth. I shall detail my theory in brief: There exists, outside of our understanding, a world -- or perhaps a series of worlds -- which the undead cannot, necessarily, reach. I have some evidence: the mythical Fae of old are said to have left our world for Arcadia, and the mortal magicians have long posited the existence of umbrae and spirit worlds. The Necromancers, as we all know, deal with the spirits of the dead -- and how can something so existing not exist somewhere?"

Unfortunately for Ms. Tindell, her studies were cut mysteriously short during a visit to a Native American reservation in the Southwest. Nevertheless, her diaries do give certain insights into the Tremere metaphysical view of the world that few others fail to worry about consciously. Many Tremere, far too many Tremere, fail to question what it is we believe. What is it that separates the Warlocks from, say, the Necromancers? And what separates the two newest clans from, say, the Lasombra or Ravnos? Of course, such questions vary by the individual in any clan -- but let us face it: members of the same bloodline tend to think alike more often than not. And some, such as the Setites, seem to all have the same basic views.

In mortal circles the question of metaphysics tends to revolve around certain things that we know to be true: the supernatural, for instance, or spirits. Many Kindred, after all, are supernatural. And yet, there are questions the answers to which not even we know: Does God exist? And the Antediluvians -- do they? What is the nature of the supernatural: is there a sharply defined break between nature and supernature, or do they all exist along a line of sorts, certain things more spiritual than others? And what of the universe itself? Is the world generally malevolent, benevolent, or simply uninterested in mortals and immortals alike? And the big question, can we really know -- is the universe causal or chaotic?

Tremere as a whole tend to have set answers toward these questions, drilled into them by their elders. More than any other clan, the Tremere's metaphysical understanding of the universe is formed by their epistemology, or how we know -- through constant testing and experimentation. That is not to say, however, that even a majority of the kindred of our clan question such things as the existence of God -- merely that we are more likely, on average, to do so than those of other clans. After all, thaumaturgy itself is a matter of questioning cause and effect.

Does God Exist?

I said before that the big metaphysical question was "Is the universe chaotic or causal?" That is only true in part: for most of the world -- including most kindred -- the answer to "Does God exist" is much more important than whether the universe is rational or not. After all, if God exists then it does not necessarily matter whether or not the universe makes sense: God will take care of it.

Most kindred, including Tremere, generally believe the same things they did before their Embrace, if only generally. For instance, it is unlikely for a Buddhist Tremere to suddenly believe in the Christian God, just as a Christian Tremere born in 1200 is exceedingly unlikely to deny the existence of God. Like all Cainites -- "Cainites," that in itself implies something about God, does it not? -- Tremere tend to believe in God, though often it is for lack of an alternative. Can, they ask, the Supernatural exist without a creator-God?

Monotheistic kindred are predominant amongst believers, though in recent years they have been edged out by atheistic naturalists of the younger generations. Christians, of course, are most common, though Jews have a much higher representation in the clan than would be initially expected -- Jews have traditionally had a high respect for learning, and most of them maintain their religions, at least loosely, after death. Muslims are rare, despite their love of learning; the Assamites hate the Tremere so much that they kill any who attempt to enter the Middle East (although they are not successful, they nevertheless have had a grave impact on the number of Arabs and other Muslims Embraced into the clan).

Polytheistic Tremere are shockingly rare, despite an interest in recent years for Hindu beliefs. There are a number of reasons for this, including, of course, the presence of the Eastern vampires. Atheists, as I have mentioned, are becoming increasingly common ever since Darwin published his Origin of Species. Tonight few are Embraced who remain religious, even fewer are fanatics -- although there are the rare Qabbalistic radicals of course.

Do the Antediluvians Exist?

At first glance, this question does not seem to matter to the childer of Tremere -- we know our founder exists, though we may deny such knowledge to others. At the same time there is evidence that our "progenitor" devoured Saulot, the Antediluvian forefather of the Salubri, now allies of the Sabbat. Nevertheless, though we generally accept the existence of the antediluvians -- those that existed before the semi-mythical flood -- the Antediluvians imply so much more. The existence of the founders of the various clans, after all, are wrapped up in power so great that an entire bloodline, the Ravnos, have been all but eliminated from the unfolding stories of our existence. Furthermore, the existence of the Antediluvians suggests that, not only is the Sabbat correct (a laughable thought at best), but that the elders of the Camarilla have been lying to us for -- for a very, very long time. In any event, the ramifications of their existence are far more important to Clan Tremere than are immediately apparent.

Surprisingly, the average member of the clan does not realize that this is an important question: Why, they ask, does it matter that the Antediluvians exist? After all, our progenitor would not hunger for our blood as, for instance, the Nosferatu's Antediluvian hungers for theirs. This is true. At the same time, however, these are incredibly powerful beings, incredibly ancient beings whose power likely could drown even Etrius' -- though, as I have said, Tremere is said to have extinguished Saulot, so it is fairly certain he, at least, could stand against any single Antediluvian.

On the final count, few Tremere bother with the question, and those that do discount the existence of the Antediluvians as "myth" or exaggeration. With the recent upswing in Gehenna cults, this may begin to change, though I doubt it personally.

What is the Nature of the Supernatural?

Is the supernatural dualistic in nature, or do all things exist along a Continuum? That is the question of the nature of the supernatural. In essence, the question is this: is there a physical and a spiritual, separate and distinct from one another? Or are all things made of the same 'stuff,' with differences in the amount of 'pure' and 'impure' spiritual substance? Buddhists tend to view the latter as more correct, while most other religions, especially Christianity, view the former as accurate.

Keeping that in mind, then, it comes as a great surprise that many Tremere, most of whom were Christian in life, if only nominally, view the supernatural as existing along a continuum, similar to those who follow the Buddhist tradition. The clan is split roughly evenly on the matter. On the one hand are those that argue for the dualistic attitude forcefully. The magi tend to be the oldest members of the clan, many of them magicians prior to their being taken into undeath. They usually have an attitude toward magic of control, one wherein they are the masters of the supernatural and the physical body is a conduit for the magic that flows through them. On the other side of the debate are those that view all things as roughly spirit, though some certainly seemingly more so than others. In my view, these latter have a stronger case. In short, vampires are supernatural, but they are also physical and it seems that they cannot exist without either part, whereas, if they were dualistic creatures, they should be able to. In any event, if you are really concerned with the in-depth arguments, I am certain that you can find someone to discuss them with; this is a general primer on the philosophy of kindred.

Is the Universe Benevolent or Malevolent?

It should come as no surprise that Tremere, like most vampires, tend to have a somewhat... pessimistic view of the universe. After all, many kindred are not given their choice of whether to be Embraced or not, and the difficulties of vampiric life -- constant murder, struggle against the Beast, fighting off ennui and the like -- make for a generally negative attitude. Nevertheless, more than any other clan the Tremere can actually force change upon the universe. While some can do little more than watch as the universe goes by around them, the magi of House Tremere are able to make use of the vitae they have inherited from their vampiric condition.

Even so, the malevolence of Cainite life takes its toll. Also, Etrius' view of unlife -- a harsh, unpleasant world wherein God has cursed him and others of his kind for their grasping for immortality -- has slowly filtered down over the long nights to others in the clan. This leaves the Tremere surprisingly cynical concerning their world, particularly in the face of our obvious good fortune over the years. Additionally, younger members of the pyramid find themselves responsible for a great deal without ever obtaining the rewards they crave so much -- power and wealth. They do not realize that power comes in time, and wealth is ever-so fleeting. There are a few, rare individuals that see the universe as generally friendly toward life, if a somewhat harsh teacher, however.

Is the Universe Causal or Chaotic?

As I have mentioned, this is the question that is of the most importance to the clan of Tremere. Traditionally most of our clan has been firmly in the camp of those who argue for a causal universe -- we are scientist-magi above all else, and everything seems to have its place in the world, its cause and those things which it affects. Despite the small sub-group of Tremere that argue for a chaotic universe -- one wherein we seem to know the answers, but the answers are only static because they change only slowly or upon a whim -- it is almost universally accepted that the universe is causal.

The night that this becomes untrue, that the universe loses the vestiges of causality, will be the night when the clan of Tremere stumbles most terribly.

On How We Know

From the grimoire of Ronal St. James, deceased, adept of the Order of Hermes, House Tremere:

"[Therefore] it is only possible to achieve knowledge through reason, else it is not truly knowledge. Mystical insight, while fine, must be supported be reason, by logic, as the ancients knew. As for agnosticism, such is possible, but only for those known tonight as a-theists -- those that do not believe in God. Denial of the Father, Son, and Ghost, even so, is achieved by acts of reason, not mere assumption or mysticism."

Ronal St. James was a mortal mage during the European Dark Ages, prior to House Tremere's conversion to a vampiric clan. As an adept of the Order of Hermes, he was drawn into the curious nature of spirits, much as Margaret Tindell, quoted above. St. James argues that there are four types of understanding, two of which are fallacies and two of which are logical and, therefore, acceptable for a mage to use in his search for knowledge.

The first of the fallacies is now known as mysticism. Mystics see the spirit world, which imprints itself upon them, for all intents and purposes. Evangelical Christians, Sufi dervishes, and ecstatics of all kinds believe that mystic knowledge of the supernatural is possible. Vampiric mysticism tends to be more focused on the existence of God and the Antediluvians, since we know that the supernatural exists. One example of Tremere mysticism is the now-destroyed Arhazhan bloodline, a cult-like group of Tremere native to central Africa, which was based on Muslim mysticism and ascetic denial. The Arhazhan believed that by denying the Beast they could come to understand its true nature, and therefore come to control it. They were destroyed as a danger to the Masquerade, and evidence has since appeared suggesting they had also become tainted by the infernal.

St. James' second fallacy is belief based upon others' authority. Tremere do not suffer this particular fallacy very often, because personal understanding is encouraged by the very nature of thaumaturgy. Nevertheless, the best example is that most young childer do not know whether the Antediluvians exist or not, but also do not believe the words of their elders. This results in the differences between Camarilla Tremere (and the disbelief in Antediluvians) and Sabbat antitribu (and their belief in the same).

Faith through reason is, according to Ronal "the use of logic to believe." While not entirely accurate, it is good enough for our purposes. Ronal argues that reason, in this sense, is direct experience. Any other form of belief based on reason is, in fact, yet another fallacy. Nevertheless, it is possible to directly experience certain things, such as the spirit world. The Necromancers, for instance, have long studied the restless dead, and therefore have direct experience: Ronal would argue that, through that experience, they might have belief. On the other hand, however, using logic to prove something as elusive as God or the Antediluvians is impossible. After all, no living Tremere, at least to my knowledge, has ever met an Antediluvian (capital-A, not the lesser antediluvians that merely lived prior to the Flood; see above for the differences). And even if they did, with the exception of Tremere they are destroyed.

The last form of faith, the second form that is not a fallacy, is faith through faith. Such faith, in the words of Joseph North, is "senseless, absolutely senseless." And, argue North and Sr. James in the words of the latter, "the only way to have faith of the un-experienced." The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard believed that this was the only way to have faith in God, and the magus Elaine du Champs, in her masterwork The Absolute Magician, argues that such faith also has the ability to shape vis, the mystical energy of the earth used by mortal magicians. Indeed, there is a great deal of evidence that du Champs' arguments are correct, if not entirely so; vampiric thaumaturgy is based, not on faith, but on blood.

There is one more category that Ronal St. James notes, though he denies that "agnostic atheism" is possible for certain things. Skepticism aside, not knowing something because it cannot be known -- if, for example, it does not exist -- is a strong argument. Despite St. James' failure to accept it as a viable position, it has become increasingly common over the years, and there is a small minority of House Tremere that find themselves supporting this position.

As has been mentioned previously, most Cainites in the clan of Tremere support faith through reason -- they believe because they do. Barring such faith, they either remain faithful because they find themselves believing "senselessly," or they test. Few mystics exist in the House in these Modern Nights, and the idea of authoritative belief is almost antithetical to the beliefs of the clan.

On Inhuman Nature

When vampires talk about human nature, they generally -- at least if they are members of the Camarilla -- include themselves. Therefore, when discussing Human Nature with other Kindred, it is important to remember that many mean that in a much different sense than your average mortal. With that in mind, here is an excerpt from The Book of a Thousand Evils, by the magus Elias of Finegrove, who, sadly, greeted the sun in December of 1788.

Human Nature is, in the last consideration, evil. There is no good in it. The quest for the Holy Grail, is the quest for that which does not exist; it is the quest for Human Goodness. As was written more than 100 years ago by Thomas Hobbes, Men are naturally "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish," and they will gladly destroy one another to taste the succulent blood of victory. And even in victory Man is not kind to one another, for to do so would show weakness.

Therefore let us remember one thing, and one thing only: destruction of those responsible for this evil -- that is, all Men everywhere -- is the only way to ensure that the good can possibly exist.

Not all theorists are quite so negative as Elias of Finegrove, who was actually a rather charming individual when not overcome by his own intense evil. Most Kindred feel that they are, in fact, evil -- and only through the greatest goods can they hope to overcome this great evil. Few Kindred put forth the effort to complete these great goods, but those that do are often destroyed by others of our kind for their trouble. On the other side of the equation are those who believe themselves put on earth by god for a reason: there are the followers of the Path of Cathari, who believe themselves responsible for continuing evil who, paradoxically, have a rather positive view of Human Nature in general, though Kindred nature, for these individuals, is evil.

The question of the Nature of kindred and kine is somewhat more extensive than merely good and evil, however. There is also the question of free will and determinism, reason and emotion, and, of course, the place of the blood and training.

Do Kindred have Free Will or are our Existences Pre-Determined?

The question of free will and determinism has long bothered philosophers, both mortal and immortal. On the one hand, we seem to make our own decisions, but on the other hand we cannot really know, and it often seems that no matter what we do the events play out like a part of the Plan. More importantly, the older a Cainite gets, the more he realizes that his elders are manipulating him like a pawn on the chessboard, which seems to suggest that he does not have free will; but that merely pushes the step back once more: do the eldest elders or, if they exist the Antediluvians, have free will? If Caine exists, does he play the strings of his eldest childer? Does God dictate Caine's actions to him?

This question has many important ramifications. If God does, in fact, determine our lives, then God is the ultimate evil. Even if there is no God, if our actions are determined by our birth, then the universe, it seems, tends to be more malevolent. If, however, our own decisions -- or at least the decisions of our elders -- are made on their own, then we seem at least capable of making the world a better place. Or not.

Tremere tend to be determinists. Our knowledge of thaumaturgy seems to suggest that a given stimulus will always result in a certain reaction. Only the Malkavians do not seem to conform to this thoroughly deterministic approach to the universe. Nevertheless, there are certain members of the clan that believe that we retain free will. Ironically, perhaps, it includes some of the eldest elders: Etrius believes that we freely sold our souls to the devil ('we' referring to the clan as a whole, not any given individual, though I think he is more harsh on himself), and Goratrix -- along with all the now-departed antitribu and, indeed, the Sabbat -- strongly supported the ideals of free will. Younger clan members, by contrast, almost inevitably see themselves as destined for eternal servitude, at least for the most part, to their elders.

Which has greater power, the Blood or our upbringing?

Few kindred could possibly consider the blood having nothing to do with the way they have developed. Ask any Nosferatu. Nevertheless, the amount of control our bloodline has upon us has never before been questioned as it has during the Modern Nights, since the appearance of the Caitiff, the clanless. If our blood dominates us so thoroughly, then how can there be clanless? At the very least they should have some propensities of their sires. But they do not appear to have the benefits and drawbacks of the blood.

Tremere tend to view the blood as an accident. Training, we usually believe, will allow an adept to rise above any flaws. Of course, we do not have any blood flaws as such -- we never developed any, such as a tendency to Frenzy or the madness that afflicts Malkavians. Indeed, some Warlock scientists suspect that such blood flaws could be overcome by a more powerful personality -- certainly in the cases of such things as dietary requirements and the like.

How do Reason and Emotion live within us?

Reason is the power which allows us to exist and, indeed, to survive. The Beast, Rötschreck, ennui -- all are emotions, and all can be overcome by constant reliance on reason, or so most Tremere believe. The goal of most Tremere is to drive out passion, that we might overcome such weaknesses. Most do not do so, of course -- not even kindred necessarily have the willpower and patience necessary to achieve this. Indeed, it has been argued that only those that have mastered themselves utterly, the Inconnu perhaps, have driven out the power of passion. Others argue that we are creatures of passion, but that in order to truly match our potential we must not eradicate emotion -- for that is truly death -- but attain a state wherein the two chief forces, reason and passion, are roughly equal. That, state these philosophers, should be the ultimate goal of every Tremere.

As mentioned previously, however, reason is more respected within the clan, and therefore emotions are downplayed and torn out by many within the House of Tremere.

Are Kindred Basically Good or Basically Evil?

The question of the basic nature of vampires has long troubled the House of Tremere. Some Warlocks believe that they are creatures of the night for a reason -- for what is night, if not the "physical" representation of evil? These magi typically see themselves as an unforgivable corruption of humankind, resulting in a surprisingly positive view of the nature of mortals. Of course, not all who view kindred as evil believe that mortals are good -- some simply see mortals as a lesser evil (and I have heard of those that believe mortals are actually more evil that kindred because of their willingness to do that which even kindred refuse to do -- at least openly).

On the opposite side of the fence are those who view kindred as generally good (though few would be so bold as to claim kindred are good without exception, naturally, and basically capable of rising above their evil impulses). These kindred typically view mortals as closer to the ultimate good, but kindred as only slightly less good. Typical of dualists, many Tremere that hold this view believe that God, or Truth, or something else is the highest good, and that people are good in proportion to their capability to see the good and work toward it in the world.

A small, somewhat sidelined group of Tremere holds that kindred are neither good nor evil by nature. These kindred generally separate into two camps. The first and more prominent group believes that God allows a being to make itself; they believe He does not create humans (or kindred) as either good or evil. In this view mortals and immortals alike create themselves through their actions (and, needless to say, nearly all of these individuals support the Road of Humanity as a moral code). Somewhat fewer in number are those Tremere that deny the objectivity of good and evil. These Warlocks believe that, since good and bad are relative, that kindred are good and bad in relation to one another and depending on views held.

On That Which is of Worth

To the Tremere power is the only thing truly of worth. Art, study and so on are good -- but if they do not result in more power to the clan, they serve little purpose and are therefore secondary at best. When it comes to art and morals, worth is typically defined as "that which furthers the clan." Therefore, structure is important. Perfection of art, music, even literature -- all are important, but also insofar as they support the desires of the Pyramid. Not surprisingly, Tremere view Plato as one of the greatest philosophers of all time, and denounce postmodernists in general as destructive influences at best.

The primary virtues of the clan as a whole include loyalty, respect for one's elders, wisdom, patience, and age. There are others, of course, but they usually remain in the background. Also, I should note here that most virtues are only virtues inside the clan -- a neonate does not necessarily have to respect an elder Brujah, though it would generally be wise to do so.

Generally speaking, the more something is beneficial for the clan, the more worthwhile it is.


archived article from Sanguinus Curae



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