Someone needs to guide and lead those who cannot lead themselves, and the Silver Ladder rises to the challenge. Basing themselves in the various groups of Atlantean priests and viziers collectively known as Vox Draconis (Dragon's Voice), the Silver Ladder does not lead as Kings but as the enlightened among the masses. They follow the Elemental Precepts which states that the Awakened must be united and that magic is the right of all humans who live.
The Silver Ladder hold a unique perspective on the Fall: it was a masterstroke on the part of the Exarchs making it much more difficult for the Oracles to find new allies in the Supernal War, but the 'game' is by no means over. The Silver Ladder spend their days planning a counterstrike that will equal or exceed the Exarchs in cunning and daring: turning the Lie of the Fallen Realm back upon itself, and storming the Supernal Realms with the entire human race united against the Exarchs.
Naturally, the Guardians of the Veil dispute the value of the latter half of the strategy, which forms the basis of the two Orders' persistent rivalry, but the Silver Ladder accepts this as a necessary 'review' of their plans.
The Silver Ladder also maintains an enduring rivalry with the Seers of the Throne, and not merely because the Orders battle over the same weapon (all of mortal humanity).
The Ladder grew from the intersection of low-born cultural mages and proto-Stoic philosophers in the ancient world; when Plato spoke of the duty of those who left the cave to turn back and help others, the Ladder’s founders listened at his feet. By the time the Diadochi Wars erupted in Alexander’s wake, the spat-upon hedge practitioners had reinvented themselves as respected sages, claiming the mantle of philosopher-king from proud Pelagiad traditions. The creation of a mythic, respected past before the teachings of Plato was the foundation of Atlantis, the ideal upon which the Diamond functions and subsumes all others. After surviving an early schism where those who thought that those less enlightened should worship their betters (and mages should worship the Tyrants — this group split off to become the ancestors of the Seers), proto-théarchs successfully forged alliances within Hellenistic culture and formed the Diamond with the other nascent Orders.
The Diamond systems of Consilium and Convocation were Ladder inventions, and they retain a slim majority of leadership roles still. Order philosophy has evolved from an enlightened ruler to describing the perfect mage as a Sage, a wise advisor who enables her charges and empowers those she leads. They take the roles of teachers, wise authority figures, and counselors when dealing with Cryptopolies. Théarchs have even been known to make common cause with the Seers, when something threatens the Awakened as a people. They did so during the First Crusade’s Siege of Jerusalem, to preserve their power over the Sleepers of the Holy Land and stave off mutual annihilation by the soul-stealing demon Desiderus. So again, when Atlantean symbolism failed in a Triangle centered on the Pirate Republic of Nassau, caused by a democracy-devoted Nameless Order seizing power.
The Silver Ladder believes in mankind's inherent right of divinity. Every part of the Fallen World that causes discomfort, from an itching nose to feelings like hunger to death itself, is part of the Lie and serves to exert the Exarchs influence into the Fallen World. To the Ladder, mankind not only has the potential to be divine, it has the right to be divine. To reach this goal, the Order puts a great deal of education in its mages. Members learn how to present their beliefs during their apprenticeships. Masters engage them in debate, promote specific talking points and coach them about the other orders’ philosophies. To counsel mages, théarchs learn their ways: local customs, myths, history and anything else that might help them make their teachings relevant.
The Silver Ladder rejects Wisdom, believing that to hide magic is doing the Exarch's work. The Silver Ladder divides human spirituality into three categories. Some théarchs have undertaken especially deep studies that recognize dozens, even hundreds of types, but all descend from three main spiritual vehicles, commonly called the Stag, the Lion and the Sage. The Stag symbolizes those drives that emphasize restraint, humility, self-sacrifice, and other so-called "virtues", that cause mankind to bend knee to higher forces and remain slaves. The Lion symbolizes those drives that are self-centered and cause mankind to abuse and victimize their fellows. A Ladder mage seeks to balance both parts with the Sage, who symbolizes the drive to aid others to attain the Imperium Mysteriorum for their own sake.
The Silver Ladder unites behind convictions, not theories. It doesn’t lack the intellectual sophistication of the other orders, but all of its magical workings, spiritual experiments, writings and arguments are subordinate to the dream of a new Awakened Nation: Hieraconis. The order is driven by faith and reason together, clasping hands tightly enough to justify a comprehensive ideology aimed at uniting mages and testing the prison of the Lie.
Elemental PreceptsAt the core of Ladder philosophy lie the Elemental Precepts, who are used to demonstrate their views. No authoritative text exists, and they are often taught as a series of parables or aphorisms.
- Diamond: The Awakened are one nation: Diamond is the sanctified, transformed Earth in the Elemental Precepts, the base upon which all other achievements rest. Under this precept, mages have a common bond in Atlantis and the struggle to exalt humanity. This constitutes a nation, and mages are beholden to its laws. Traitors such as Banishers and Seers of the Throne may be punished righteously. Other mages must respect the Consilium more strongly than any Sleeper government.
- Thunder: Imperium is the right of humanity: The purpose of the Awakened is to secure the Imperium Mysteriorum -- the Sovereignty of the Mysteries -- for humanity. No Exarch or god has the right to control human destiny, and even natural calamities are an insult to human divinity. Thunder is energized Air, the life-breath of humankind, and the moral duty to seize Imperium is synonymous with the right to life itself.
- Star: The Silver Ladder is the path to victory: The Star is the sign of Supernal Fire, in the form of the Oracles' Watchtowers. Silver Ladder mages were the priest-judges of Atlantis, and it is their prerogative to direct the fruits of the Star against the Exarchs. The order claims that its most powerful members receive instructions directly from the Oracles. Théarchs pledge to arm the Awakened against the Lie. They therefore deserve the respect and obedience due the seneschals of the Oracles.
- Blood: The Sleepers follow: Blood is living Water and heralds the birth of human beings, but it is also the sign of a wound. Sleepers are wounded by the Quiescence and need the direction of the Awakened to prosper. They must be healed and raised up to claim the Imperium Mysteriorum. This is a slow, careful process that must follow the traditional forms of apprenticeship.
The Silver Ladder has several distinct ranks that rarely come into play except in order-intern affairs like a Convocation. Rank is important to many théarchs, and most provide their rank to other Awakened in introduction. Each ascension of rank within the Silver Ladder is a formal affair marked with ritual and pomp. Typically the only times in a théarch’s career she dons the robe she was given on the day of her initiation is when she rises in rank or when she is granted a title of function.
- Neophyte - Neophytes are the salespersons, advocates, messengers and lawyers of the Order that have been recently introduced into it are not yet accustomed to its secrets.
- Acolyte - Acolytes are junior members of the order that perform mainly menial tasks.
- Famulus - Famuli hold positions of power, administrate the ranks and efforts of the Consilium and generally direct the exertions of the order toward Ascension. To become a famulus, reaching the adept level of a singular Arcanum is necessary.
- Lictor - Lictors are traveling mages that spread the Elemental Precepts, further the agenda of the Silver Ladder, and act as judges for any Consilium they pass through.
- Claviger - Claviger are responsible for maintaining the Silver Ladder's ideological purity and recruit other mages for the Order.
- Deacon - The Deacon is all things to all théarchs: leader, lawgiver, priest and chief representative. He organizes the caucus, calls in Convocations and presides over the regional Lex Magica.
- Magister - Every Magister is a deacon, but not all deacons are Magisters. Together, they form the Magisterium: the Convocation’s supreme Council. Least Convocations have small Magisteria, often composed of the only two attending deacons. Tradition encourages the Magisterium to have at least one member of each Path, but smaller gatherings don’t have the numbers to permit it.
- Great Magister - There are honorary Great and Grand Magister titles given to deacons who’ve served the order with special distinction, though technically these are meant for mages who actually gather Great and Grand Convocations. There are allegedly a few real Great Magisters left from the European Convocation of 1900, but these super-centenarians are said to be either bedridden and senile, or have cracked the secrets of Archmastery and hidden themselves away.
The Order harbours several groups that focus on varios aspects of the Elemental Precepts. The three most common are
- Powerbrokers - The Powerbrokers are honestly named; the members are interested in power, although not always for its own sake. More specifically, the members are mages who have an interest in controlling and directing others in both the mortal world and the society of mages. Also, regardless of their other interests, most Powerbrokers consider themselves to be the rightful rulers of the Sleepers. Because of their efforts and the power some of their members hold in both mage and mortal society, many mages from other orders consider Powerbrokers to be synonymous with the Silver Ladder.
- Theurges - Theurges see themselves as the direct heirs of the priest-kings of Atlantis. For them, magic is not merely a source of potentially endless power and knowledge: It is also a source of spiritual enlightenment, enlightenment their predecessors in Atlantis used to spread to the Sleepers. While Theurges often differ on what they see as the proper role for spiritual seekers and teachers, they belong to the most mystical and spiritually focused faction within the Silver Ladder.
- Ascended - members of the Ascended specifically focus their efforts upon attaining Archmastery and eventually achieving the even more legendary one of Supernal Ascension. Many of their efforts involve seeking out whatever information they can about existing Archmages and the methods by which they attained this exalted status. In addition to sharing a single-minded dedication to magical excellence, members of the Ascended are fascinated by the nature of magic and are driven by some mixture of ambition, perfectionism and desire for magical transcendence.
- , p. 35, 46-48