The human soul is creation's greatest wonder. Love. Joy. Beauty. Passion. Righteousness. These are the finest things in life.
And they're dying.
The static paradigm is slowly sufficating the human spirit. Skepticism closes the mind to posibilities. Materialism focuses the mind on the fleeting demands of the present. There may have been terrors when mysticism ruled the world, but there were also wonders. The dynamic paradigm may have had room for dragons, but it also had room for the heros who slayed them.
The Technocracy's order is a dead end. It maintains the peace by destroying what is best in man. The Technocrats are so afraid the masses might feel pain, they refuse to let the masses live. To the Traditions, this is a fate worse than death. It is the inevitable destiny of every human soul to Awaken, but only if they are allowed to find the path for themselves.
The Traditions are warriors of freedom. They brave paradox and Technocratic reprisals to bring the truth of Awakening to the masses. Through the dark times of the Technocracy's dominance, they preserve humanity's sacred heritage of magic, keeping it safe until it is free to blossom once more.
The Traditions' ultimate and most cherished goal is Ascension. With their help, humanity will attain its birthright and bring the whole of the Tapestry under its control. When they do, all chains will be broken, all limitations will be surpasses, and all ignorance and suffering will be banished forever.
Priests, mystics, magicians, and rogue scientists make up the Council of Traditions. These freethinking visionaries keep the flame of wonder alive. They cultivate their magical enlightenment, research ancient mysteries, and build their strength in remote corners of the world - all in preparation for the day when their power can walk openly once more.
Not every Awakened mystic joins the Council. In fact, many do not. To be a member of the Traditions is to respect the freedom of others to believe as they wish. Members understand that paradigm is a personal choice, and that every mage is endangered by the transcendent threat of Technocratic hegemony.
That's the ideal, anyway. In truth, though all traditionalists respect an individual's right to believe what they wish, many, if not most, of them view this as "the right to be stupid." No paradigm is "right," but some are "better." To the typical Tradition mage, the better paradigm is clearly one's own.
Internal Tradition politics revolve around this tension. No one wants the Council to fail, but neither do they want to "dilute" or "debase" their own paradigms by surrendering power to ecumenical decrees. Thus, the formal equality and independence of the individual Traditions is rigorously guarded. At every level of authority, Tradition governance is scrupulously representative. Every decision making body contains precisely one member of each Tradition. Individual offices are divided according to a complex quota system. Each Tradition's leaders distribute these offices to lower-ranking members in order to advance their political and ideological goals.
Though the Traditions' are officially equal, competition for informal status is fierce. Every Tradition considers itself the first among equals. Members try hard to prove it. Status in the Traditions is based on magical might. Mastery of the spheres is not merely a reflection of personal power; it also represents a mage's contribution to one of the Traditions' primary goals - the preservation of mystic knowledge in this grey age of doubt.
The Traditions are strongest in places far from civilization, or where law and order are weak. Virgin wilderness, urban slums, war zones, isolated rural villages; from these places of safety, they wage guerilla war against the static reality of the Technocracy.
The Traditions oppose the Technocracy in a variety of ways. One way, popular with young and rash mages, is to directly subvert the static paradigm with extreme acts of magic. The Technocracy is very efficient at covering up these incidents and ruthlessly pursues the perpetrators, but despite their efforts, people remember. The soul yearns for Awakening, and recognizes what the mind refuses to believe. Rumor spreads the truth, or at least a story resembling the truth. Urban legends preserve the moment, beyond even the Technocracy's reach, and one act of magic can keep the smouldering ashes of belief alive for years to come.
The Traditions also fight the Technocracy directly. Technocrats rely on stockpiles that can be stolen, supply lines that can be broken, and allies that can be killed. Some might call them terrorists, but theirs is a terror in the service of righteousness. Wounds heal. Souls reincarnate. But the Awakened can change reality forever. If they can stymie the Technocracy enough for just one soul to shake itself from sleep, the sacrifices were worth it.
But the greatest threat the Traditions pose is in their very existence. The Technocracy would have sleepers believe that only one truth exists, that the world they see is the only world possible. As long as the Traditions survive, they are living proof of the Technocracy's lies. That, most of all, is what the Technocrats fear.
The Technocracy has guns. They have whole legions of unawakened fanatics. They have satellites that can read a newspaper from space. But there is one thing they don't have. There is one advantage the Traditions retain that makes the Ascension War a viable contest instead of a one-sided slaughter. The Traditions cause Awakenings.
Not all the time, and most certainly not with assembly-line precision, but often enough to be more than a fluke. Inherited rituals, passed down for hundreds or thousands of years, allow Tradition mages to identify and initiate potential mages with a rate of success the Technocracy would kill to attain.
The Awakening is a sublime mystery. While the Traditions take pride in their ability to recruit new mages, only the foolish believe they can control the process. The Traditions have access to spells that will almost infallibly rouse a sleeper to full awareness, but the reckless application of these magics is the world's largest source of poisoned Awakenings.
The Traditions have the advantage of numbers. Mages are incalculably precious, so much so that the Council's extra Awakened personnel can be weighed against the Technocracy's seemingly infinite wealth, pervasive social influence, and vast armada of war machines, and not be found wanting. And it is with this advantage, that the Traditions plan to change the world.
The Traditions oppose the Technocracy. That's a given. What's not obvious is the form that opposition should take. The enlightenment and the industrial revolution put the Traditions on the philisophical defensive. The Ascension War has put them on the military defensive. The Traditions must take action, but how much of their limited resources should they commit to each front?
Division over the best answer to this question crosses Tradition lines. Ironically, these disagreements serve to counter the individual Traditions' tendency to close ranks against outsiders. Multi-Tradition groups of politically like-minded mages often find themselves advancing goals that have nothing to do with the wishes of their formal superiors.
There are two main internal factions within the Traditions. The Maruders believe the Traditions should focus on metaphysically undermining the Technocracy. By destabilizing the static paradigm, they hope to encourage Awakenings and reduce the effectiveness of Technocratic procedures. The Vanguardists believe the Traditions should target the Technocracy's resources and personell. After the Technocracy is defeated, the Traditions can allow humanity to Awaken at its own place while subtly expanding the paradigm to make magic safer and more reliable.
Marauders often accuse Vanguardists of wanting to replace one dictatorship with another. Vanguardists accuse Marauders of risking the destruction of the world the Traditions are trying to save. There is little short-term danger of the Traditions splitting on this issue, primarily because the Technocracy is far too powerful for either group to confront on its own. A change in this dynamic would herald significant changes for the Traditions as a whole.
Magic causes paradox. Paradox causes problems. Problems provoke crisis. Crisis inspires Awakening. The marauders plan to drag humanity kicking and screaming into Ascension by causing as much paradox as possible.
Wherever Marauders go, chaos follows. The best among them cast complex enchantments that reverse gravity, change darkness to light and light to darkness, and other, stranger effects. The less talented cast the most obvious spells they can, and hope the mere injection of wonder is enough to challenge perceptions. Either way, when sleepers cross paths with Marauders and their works, they find their lives filled with exotic new sensations, breathtaking revelations, and soul-crushing terror - often all at once.
The Marauders' audacious plan is fraught with risk. Through the consensus, the laws of existence are connected in subtler ways than anyone could possibly imagine. By undermine those laws, they inspire sleepers to glorious new insights, but there's now way to predict what they might destroy in the process. If this seems cruel, that's probably because it is. But the Marauders believe it to be a necessary cruelty. Stripping humanity of their comforts will force it to develop its strength. When mankind can no longer rely on passively received notions of cause and effect, it will be forced to rely on itself instead.
The Marauders seem crazy to many mages, but their plan might work, and if it does, the payoff is unimaginable. Awakened and freed of the limitations of static reality, humanity will become as gods, able to rewrite the world, and themselves, into any form they wish. In this infinite glorious future, the temporary trials of a brief transitional period will be celebrated, if they are remembered at all.
Magic is serious business. It is the most important thing in the world. It is too important to be entrusted to those who aren't ready for the responsibility. Unfortunately, the Technocracy's propaganda has stunted the spiritual development of the masses. The crutch of the static paradigm has made them like children. It's tragic, but true. The existence of the poisoned Awakening proves that most sleepers aren't capable of handling a mage's power.
This state of affairs is destined to continue for as long as the Technocracy maintains its grip on the minds of the masses. The only responsible course of action is to defeat the Technocracy, break their hold, and undo the effects of indoctrination. When those goals are achieved, the Traditions will have freed the minds of the masses without destroying the world in the process.
The Vanguardists are elitist, but most of them are the best kind of elitist. They know their superior enlightenment is a responsibilty. When confronted with the shortest path and the safest path, they choose the safest. The sleepers can never understand the Ascension War, but they can be caught in the crossfire. No matter how convenient it might be to twist their helpless minds into weapons, mages must act as the stewards of humanity - even if that sometimes means acting as their shepheards.