1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

A religion of eyes

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Gryphos, Aug 27, 2016.

  1. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    1,417
    454
    83
    In one of my WIPs, I've created a religion focused entirely around eyes, what I've dubbed the 'Faith Oculus'. And I think it acts as something of a case study of how you can take a simple concept and extrapolate so much from it to create a rich piece of world-building.

    I think I've mentioned this concept in other threads, but basically, in this world, there are huge eyeballs floating in the sky at around stratospheric level, so many that the sky is almost completely lined with them. They're transparent enough to allow sunlight through, but they're still always noticeable, especially so at night. This world has no moon; instead, at night the Eyes Above shine with a blueish light, meaning that night isn't actually very dark at all. But most important of all, the Eyes Above are active. They pivot and turn to watch things unfold on the earth.

    So, naturally, people started worshipping the Eyes Above as gods. Having the Eyes Above watch you is the greatest honour in the world. It's something of a blessing; the same way in our world someone might say, 'God bless you', these people might say, 'Eyes watch you'.

    This was fairly basic stuff, so then I'm thinking about the implications of a religious system based around the Eyes Above, and I extrapolated the idea that perhaps vision itself is seen as sacred. In that case, it would become desirable to see the world as clearly as possible, as that would bring one's existence as closer to that of the Eyes Above. Perhaps priests of the Faith Oculus are required to have 20/20 vision, and so have to go through eye tests before they can be ordained. On the other end of the scale, how are people with poor vision seen by society? In a world where vision is sacred, blind people would be discriminated against. Cool stuff.

    Then I started to think about the nuances of religious practice, and I came up with the idea that when praying to the Eyes Above, people look upwards while covering their eyes. At first I made it this way because I thought it made a cool visual image, so I thought about how to justify it. I decided that the idea is to obscure one's vision as a sign of humility. I took this idea further, and came up with the idea that the funeral rites of this religion involves carving out people's eyes and placing them in their mouth, to be covered, but not closed.

    Why not closed? Well, thinking more, I came up with the idea that to close one's eyes is inherently sinful, as it is denying one's vision at a fundamental level, rather than simply obscuring it as happens when covering one's eyes with their hands. In a world where vision is sacred, why would anyone want to close their eyes and deny their vision?

    But if closing your eyes is sinful, then sleep itself would be inherently sinful. It would be a sin everyone is forced to partake in; all the pious priests who used various methods to never fall asleep eventually died after a few weeks. But sleep is sinful for two reasons: not only because it involves closing one's eyes, but because it means escaping the real world and entering the dream-world which exists in people's minds, the one thing the Eyes Above cannot see. Therefore, to fall asleep is to run away from the gods.

    But, if there's one thing I don't think is used enough in fantasy religions, it's the idea of different, philosophically conflicting sects. In this case, the orthodox belief is that eyes should be covered and not closed, but there is a heretical sect which believes that eyes can be closed. They believe there is value in choosing not to see, justifying this belief with the fact that sleep is an essential process for life. Closing one's eyes as they pray is dubbed a 'heretic's prayer'.

    So that's that. Starting from the simple concept of 'gods are eyes', I extrapolated different ideas to create a fully fleshed out and (hopefully) interesting fantasy religion, facilitating philosophical conflicts which will be very prominent in the story. I think one of Sanderson's Laws is that you should expand on what you already have before adding something new, and having gone through this process, I wholeheartedly agree.
     
  2. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

    323
    101
    28
    It sounds really thought out and I think its quite cool. Maybe when the elves sleep it's not sinful because the eyes themselves can't see? Just an idea.
     
  3. This is...really, really, really weird. And I love it.
     
  4. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,096
    1,508
    313
    This sounds awesome, but I'm left with questions. How is covering one's eyes (i.e. with hands or a blindfold) different than closing them? They accomplish the same thing, obscuring vision. Eyelids are just another form of covering, IMO. (Also, would that make blinking or winking a sin as well?)
     
  5. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

    323
    101
    28
    Good points.
     
  6. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    1,417
    454
    83
    Technically, yes, there is no real difference between covering and closing one's eyes. It's an arbitrary difference, but religions are often arbitrary, aren't they? Perhaps it's one thing to use your hands for the temporary purpose of covering your eyes, but to utilise a body part the sole purpose of which is to 'not see'? That's too far. At least, to the orthodox establishment it is. Some heretics might follow your line of thought that there is no real difference between covering and closing eyes, etc.
     
  7. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,096
    1,508
    313
    That just begs the question of why these people would have been created with eyelids in the first place. Unless they're there for the intended purpose of protecting the eye, and people have corrupted that by willfully closing their eyes when protection isn't needed?
     
  8. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    1,417
    454
    83
    In this world, humans weren't created; they evolved just like in the real world, and yes, I know that eyelids technically serve the sole purpose of protecting the eye. But in this primitive society, being obsessed with vision, they don't understand this biological necessity.
     
  9. johnsonjoshuak

    johnsonjoshuak Troubadour

    109
    19
    18
    An Idea for the Heretics: they believe that closing the eyes is not sinful because it shows faith that the Eyes Above will watch for them.

    A really cool idea btw
     
  10. MRJarvis

    MRJarvis New Member

    2
    0
    1
    What would your world's take on glasses be? To me, I feel as though some of the priests who went to be ordained but didn't have 20/20 vision, may bitterly attempt to find a way to receive this 'power'. Which would be a natural evolution to the concept of glasses, something which would become a guarded secret by either the heretics or the religion itself. They also 'cover the eyes' but given that the eyes are still visible, it could be a debated topic among the different sects. Overall, I feel it's a very cool concept :)
     
  11. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    1,417
    454
    83
    Oooo, yes, glasses. For the most part I think glasses would simply be a mark of shame (for the extremely pious, at least), for it means their eyes are faulty. Now, as society develops and inevitably becomes more secular, these things will come to matter less. I'm actually considering writing another story set in this world, but instead of having medieval-level technology, it will be post-industrial. In the post-industrial setting, having glasses won't restrict someone's options in life too much, but the Faith Oculus will still bar people requiring glasses from becoming priests.
     
  12. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

    323
    101
    28
    That's a great idea!
     
  13. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    1,596
    1,016
    163
    I'm just hung up on the idea that a religion could stigmatize a basic human function like closing one's eyes (and by extension, sleeping). Yes, sex has been labeled a sin--but not only in certain contexts. This seems almost impossible. I'd recommend that you make abstaining from closing one's eyes similar to fasting: a few devoutly religious people would do it frequently, but the average joe would function as biology dictates.

    Not closing your eyes at all would lead pretty quickly to blindness or similar--I think any primitive human would draw the conclusion that the gods frown on that.

    Also, it might make more sense if it was the Faith Oculorum--Faith Oculus just means "Faith Eye" not "of the Eyes".

    Very interesting though, and I agree that there are a million possibilities for rituals and associations.
     
    Gryphos and Ireth like this.
  14. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    1,417
    454
    83
    Oh yeah, ain't no one's gonna be able to genuinely stop closing their eyes. It would take extraordinary willpower to not blink, and all the priests who tried to stop sleeping completely only lasted a few weeks. The religion doesn't so much stigmatise people for closing their eyes (except when they're doing it consciously), rather it sees sleep and blinking as sinful acts that people are tragically unable to avoid, showing how flawed the human race is compared to the Eyes Above, which never sleep and never blink.

    Although, you have given me the idea to make it a religious practice for people to go a certain amount of time without sleeping (say, a few days or so during a religious festival). Perhaps people wishing to become priests, as well as having an eye test, must also go through a trial in which they spend an uncomfortable amount of time without sleeping.

    I honestly hadn't thought about the actual meaning of the phrase when I came up with it; I just knew that an oculus was an eye and that 'Faith Oculus' sounded cool. Mmmmm, I'll have to think about this.
     
  15. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    1,290
    549
    113
    Wouldn't it make more sense if blindfolding is sinful as it is an artificial way to cover one's vision while closing your eyes is okay because it is natural? I tend to think that choosing to commit wrongdoing is worse than being forced by nature to commit a wrongdoing. Like how many religion look down on sex unless it is for procreation.

    I honestly can't believe that a religion could evolve or flourish if it vilifies blinking of all things. That completely shatters my suspension of disbelief.

    Also, how would dreams be seen in this setting? Like the images you "see" in your mind?
     
    Gryphos and Ireth like this.
  16. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    1,417
    454
    83
    In a sense, it's fine if it doesn't make logical sense. The religion itself is meant to be farcical, full of arbitrary definitions and questionable conclusions. Many heretics have pointed these flaws out, but the Faith Oculus has just happened to become the most powerful sect of Eye-worship, and thus the most influential. It's certainly true that the Eyes Above don't actually give two shits about whether humans close their eyes or not; they've never communicated with humans at all, just watched their antics with amusement.

    I think dreams would be a part of why sleep is seen as sinful, because when you dream, you're retreating into your own mind, the one place the Eyes Above can't see. In dreams, you're seeing a false reality which the Eyes Above don't see, so it's seen as worthless.
     
  17. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    2,854
    1,921
    163
    Well your focus so far seems to be that "becoming like the Eyes Above" is the pivot around which the faithful modify their own behavior.

    But what about something else? Maybe trying to avoid being seen by the Eyes Above is tantamount to proclaiming one's active opposition to them—one of the worst imaginable sins. So all their buildings and rooms within those buildings must be open to the sky, or at least have nothing but glass windows for roofs. Using blankets for warmth might be considered a sin. Heck, covering one's body with clothing might be a sin. And Eyes forbid that anyone engage in the industry of mining. (Edit: Perhaps strip mining would be fine.....)

    Edit#2: Ah, mirrors. Maybe their buildings have complex arrangements of mirrors so that no area within is out of view of the Eyes Above.

    Anyway, I picture some kids playing with a ball on the street and it rolls under a building and they have to spend an hour or two trying to figure how to get it out without "hiding" from the Eyes Above...
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2016
    Gryphos likes this.
  18. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    1,417
    454
    83
    That is a pretty neat idea, but I don't think it's necessary, since the Eyes Above are capable of seeing through solid objects like walls and even the earth. An eye on one side of the world could still see what was happening on the opposite side. And I imagine the humans would become aware of this fact over time when they, for example, notice the Eyes looking at a castle without many windows.

    Although, that said, I could definitely imagine that temples would be built with an open roof, to offer the clearest possible view, and to make sure that when people reveal their eyes after prayer they can actually see the Eyes.

    Great ideas, people!
     
  19. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

    323
    101
    28
    Wild Idea, the very religious prophets could actually have their eyelids removed, causing them to never sin again. (I know it would cause a world of pain, but it's an idea.)
     
  20. If you didn't have eyelids you would go permanently blind pretty soon.
     
Loading...

Share This Page