Currently revered as a patron among rural communities, the being now known as Berell is rumored to have once simply been a member of the Brothers of the Lantern. From this context, it can be assumed that even the name we now refer to him by may simply be an alias, as is typical of the order. The definitiveness of these origins is questionable at best, but a popular folkstory has sprung up around them, which can be found in the "Folklore and Tales" section of the Odlucian Library, and generally progresses in the following manner:
Around -180 EC, Berell is said to have been contemplating a moral problem presented by another of the Brothers, wherein a woman is presented with two options. Having just become the benefactor of a large sum of money, which specified upon its receipt that it be used for the betterment of Ghyll, the woman theorizes that on one hand, she might spread the money among many others to enhance their lives and provide them comfort. On the other hand, she also considers simply keeping the sum herself, as she is an inhabitant of Ghyll and through its use for her benefit she will be bettering Ghyll as well.
Now Berell, after having examined the problem from a number of angles, eventually came to the conclusion that she should keep the sum. His reasoning for this claim was that the betterment of her own existence should be paramount to that of others, as it is under her direct control and imperative to her survival. If such a boon were instead squandered on other beings, whose morals and choices are suspect at best, it would be equivalent to throwing that money away and might even result in the detriment of Ghyll, should one of its benefactors use the funds wrongly.
Naturally, this would have been viewed as quite a selfish tactic by many of his fellows at the time, and an uproar at once took hold amongst their number that one so selfish could still claim brotherhood. It is said that then, after a period of nearly three months of debate, Berell was eventually asked to leave the Brotherhood, as their goals had become far too divergent, and that if he truly believed his credo, then he should attempt to make his way in the world alone and exposed.
General Views and Credo
The general views of Berell and his followers are to this day almost a direct descendant of his original precepts. Secrecy and the accumulation of personal wealth are held to be the paramount goals of any intelligent being. Naturally, this world view is a favorite among merchants and trademongers, as their very existence supports his goals. However, Berell also speaks highly to a large number of the smaller, more enclaved, rural communities, which hold his teachings of secrecy in particulary high regard.
Prime among the tenements of Berell is a single credo which is meant to guide the lives of his followers. It is stated by most of his sects as follows:
"Honor thyself and guard its safety well, for it is the only vessel to which Ghyll's message is made clear."
To the casual observer, a couple of points should be noted about this rather simple message.
The first of these is that the protection of a single existence is apparently paramount. Other life is secondary to the observers as their interpretation (or possibly even existence, depending on the translation used) is questionable. The actions of another life cannot be accurately predicted by a single individual, yet their own may be tightly controlled, so in any situation in which a value judgement must be made between their own life and that of another, the observer's life must always take precedence. In practice, this has led many of their number on a path of suspicion and paranoia which borders on the pathological, as every choice outside of their control (of which their are vast numbers) is a suspect point of compromise to their life. Mountain holes and deep swamps are often the abodes of this lot.
The second point is that the credo seems quite final and implies a distinct lack of prospects beyond the observed existence. Expectedly, this point is argued fiercely by some scholors and theologians, as they claim it simply emphasises the need for individuals to form their own interpretations of the world, free of any corrupting bias. Some have also taken the meaning in a much more geomantic sense to imply that the very world of Ghyll has a purpose for each being. This view, however, is not widely held, and is the purview of a limited number of sects.
To worsen matters, all of these disparate and disjointed views have not been helped by one of the prime tenants of Berell, that of secrecy, which is claimed to aid in the preservation of life. Views between sects are rarely discussed in an open forum, and many times, it is difficult to even wrestle an admission of faith in Berell from a known follower. As such, the actual number of followers of Berell and the number of splintered interpretations of his credo are both issues which are interesting to debate for any scholar who has the time or patience.
To call the followers of Berell an organized faith would be a vast overstatement of their capacity to communicate. Due to their secretive nature, the collective praise of Berell is usually a muted affair, occurring in homes or among tightly knit communities with only a handful of members. As a sign of private faith, some merchants and business owners are also known to place minor items, such as a brown cloak hanging in a corner of a shop, as a symbolic gesture of their leanings. Even these, however, are almost universally clandestine and designed to only draw the attention of those who should truly care.
In some circles, it is rumored that the Aminfarances Institute of Science and Technomancy (AIST), may hold some affiliation with the faith of Berell. Although many of Institute's members claim a heritage even predating the written word, a vast selection of their current practices and modern operations seem to be directly lifted from Berell's teaching. If their claims of distant ancestry are in fact truthful, however, then one explanation of this phenomenon may be a gradual absorption of the teachings and practices of Berell into their own edicts over such a long history of coexistence. Possibly, the Institute's own teachings may have already pursued similar lines and as the two came into contact, those aspects which enhanced their practices may have been acquired while the chaff was thrown aside.
With respect to services of faith, during formal gatherings of organized service to Berell, the oldest member of the group present usually officiates. This leader, or rejah, will perform such actions as leading the speaking of the credo, asking the present members for their perceptions of reality, and the symbolic refusal of name and status. Gatherings of this type rarely take more than an hour and only happen once every two weeks or less to allow members the privacy they desire.
--Araes Domandred 19:57, 14 Sep 2004 (EDT)