- paradigm: A system of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality.
While all mages are willworkers, bringing about effects by imposing their will on the Tapestry, it is hubris to imagine that an Awakened mage may simply think of something and have it occur. The power of the Consensus must be overcome, and one mage's mind is rarely enough to break the rules of modern belief (certainly not without invoking Paradox). Instead, each mage comes to an understanding of magic through the rituals and trappings of a particular style of magic, which focuses their will and resonates through the Tapestry, tapping into beliefs still held by a significant proportion of Sleepers.
The Traditions of the Council of Nine reflect the common, broad traditions of magic from around the world, while the Crafts represent more esoteric, rare or forgotten paradigms. The Conventions, by contrast, all subscribe to the global Technocratic paradigm of enlightened science.
While the basics of the paradigms of members of a Tradition may be the same - members of the Order of Hermes performing hermetic magic, Sons of Ether employing scientific devices - there are usually many personal variations on paradigms that may be used within each. For example, one Verbena witch may use blood sacrifices and ritual dances at midnight to enact her magic, while another may make potions from special herbs and rare ingredients which much be imbibed as part of her spell casting. As mages grow in understanding and Arete, they integrate more skills, techniques and possibilities into their paradigms, enabling them to learn from others of their Tradition and, in some cases, from members of other Traditions as well.
At its core, a paradigm is a core assumption about how the world works. This can be a mechanistic cosmos, a holistic or animistic approach to reality or the belief that might makes right. Across various Traditions, Conventions and Crafts, these views are fundamental to how the mage approaches magic. Otherwise, they are clad in cultural beliefs on why the various elements of the paradigm work together to produce magic (or Enlightened Science). Sometimes, these beliefs clash violently. An Akashic holds no respect for a Hermetic True Name, believing it an amusing feat to enshrine the false self instead of a mystic symbol of the mage's identity. Nevertheless, the Traditions generally follow the same core assumptions (for example, that there are nine Spheres of magic instead of twenty-two). The Technocracy follows a more stringent paradigm in which most Conventions deviate only by virtue of specialization.
Tradition mages separate a Paradigm and its according beliefs into four stages:
- Deep: Mages with a deep paradigm often have personalized beliefs that blend into the way they perceive the Tellurian.
- Strong: Mages with a strong paradigm have deepened the connection between their paradigm and the Tellurian, having tested its limits and possibly expanded them.
- Shallow: Mages with a shallow paradigm have learned enough to work magic by rote, having learned most of its applications and instruments. Still, the more metaphysical areas of their craft elude them.
- Surface: Mages at this stage do not really go into metaphysics. To them, it is questionable if they practice magic at all, or if the feats they manage or just a natural extension of their capabilities, like mental arithmetics.
Regarding how strict a mage holds to the "beliefs" that surround his paradigm, for example, the mysticism intrinsic to the practices of the Order of Hermes, the more rigid his paradigm is.
- Rigid: Mages with a rigid paradigm know that their way is the only true way. What other practice might look like magic, but it is definitely not. Such a mage has to translate every rote or spell from another paradigm than their own into a way that fits their style.
- Closed: A closed paradigm acknowledges that other paradigms might exist, but assumes that they are incomplete or otherwise unfit for magic.
- Open: An open paradigm holds that other paradigms might contain a kernel of truth, but that their personal paradigm works best for them. They have no problem sharing and adapting knowledge from other traditions.
- Liberal: A liberal paradigm holds that everything is true and therefore combines multiple assumptions from various paradigms into a wild mish-mash.
These states roughly correspondend to the afromentioned stages, but do not have to.
- Main article: Focus
Integral to all paradigms, especially at the beginning of a mage's Awakened life, are foci: magical tools and rituals which focus the mage's will. Foci are the practical expression of the paradigm, the means by which the mage turns his internal understanding into reality. Foci may be anything from personal tools of power, like a staff or wand, to the use of catalysts or magical ingredients, to actions that must be performed by the mage, like dancing, sex or even martial arts (like Do). Inexperienced mages are often unable to perform magic without physical foci; more powerful willworkers still employ them quite often, as they make magic less difficult to perform.
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