Posted by: Jess Riley | October 22, 2008

Theme Week Humans: Virtues of the Light?

Humans, as a rule, follow The Light. Based on my knowledge of Azeroth and the culture of the human people, I’m going to assume that the default assumption is to be religious rather than non-religious. That is, it’s more likely that a random person would be religious, either actively or passingly, than it is that they wouldn’t be. Even those who aren’t priests or paladins – surely these people have some kind of congregation that they lead around and put on the right path. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be much in the way of priests.

But, anyway – onto my point. Even if an individual isn’t actively religious themselves, odds are that humans have been raised into a family or culture group in which they are aware of and even passively indoctrinated into the virtues of the faith. Now, The Light seems to be a pretty easy religion when viewed from the outside: it only teaches three main virtues (Compassion, Tenacity and Respect, if you weren’t sure), and there’s no actual God to impress or annoy.

Personally, though, I have to think that there’s more to it than this. There’s a few things in common with virtually all real world religions that I can think of (in practice, if not in doctrine): explanation of what happens at or after death, what is or isn’t okay in the bedroom, things like that. Even in cases where there isn’t much in the way of a set doctrine, there’s cultural views tied into interpretations of the faith that influence the way people behave, or the way others feel that they should behave (note that these aren’t always the same thing).

So, given that the vast majority of humans follow The Light, and we don’t know much about how people practice worship of / faith in the Holy Light, how do we play the general feelings of faith that the humans have, or traditions, or cultural understandings related to morality? After all, morality in most societies is derived from some kind of belief system, whether it’s derived from faith or philosophy. What do humans believe is moral and immoral, and where does that come from? How should that be played?

The short answer is that we don’t really know. There’s a lot of things that we don’t know about the people that we’re  roleplaying, and unfortunately, this is one of them. Fortunately, it is a very personal thing, and you’d generally be hard-pressed to find someone who knows more about it than you do, so even if there’s a lot of variation between individuals, that’s completely justifiable. Additionally, at no point am I trying to say that my interpretation is the Right and True one – even if you agree that I’m right in general about the human morality, that doesn’t mean every individual human is going to feel the same way.

All that said, let’s get to the interpreting!

The three virtues of the Holy Light are, as I said above, Compassion (serving others to increase their happiness, and their connection to the universe, and your own in turn), Tenacity (dedication to affecting the world; instilling hope in others and bettering the world) and Respect (for the happiness of others, and for the connection of others to the universe). However, this seems to be pretty much the extent of the teachings that we know about. What kinds of morality could we reasonably extrapolate from these virtues?

Based on the way real-world religions tend to go, I have a few guesses.

  • Adultery. I’m primarily basing this on my (admittedly shaky) knowledge of some paths of Buddhism, wherein it is taught, of course, that the ultimate goal to strive towards is to not harm others. For this reason, adulterous behaviour is heavily frowned upon, as it is virtually impossible to undertake this while not causing harm to other people. This probably falls under a violation of Respect, as well, as it’s not respecting the happiness of others, as well as Compassion.
  • Laziness. Virtually the opposite of Tenacity, it makes sense why laziness would be frowned upon. It is better to serve others than to serve the self, and so sitting about and not doing much is probably not liked at all.
  • Vengeance. Rather than real world religions, where vengeance is frequently derided for trying to take into one’s own hands the duty of the God, The Holy Light probably frowns upon vengeance as it shows a lack of Respect for the relation of others to the world, and therefore is not serving the world’s well-being, or your own individual well-being in turn.
  • Dishonesty. I think it depends to some extent what the person is being dishonest about, but I can’t imagine lying or being dishonest would be looked upon very well by devout followers of the Holy Light. Apart from the high chances of hurting someone else through dishonesty, thus not abiding by Compassion or Respect, lying to make things easier for yourself shows a lack of Tenacity.

These are just a few ideas, and as I said, they won’t be universal; however, most humans will have been raised in a society which praises these virtues, and these are just a few examples of the applications of these virtues that I think are likely to be held by a lot of people within the society.


  1. I think first, the distinction should be made that the Holy Light is a philosophy, albeit one with heavy religious undertones due to what it once was previously to the belief retcon in Warcraft III. I say such, because the mind set of someone approaching a philosophy, while similar to that of a religion, is still far different.

    Next, when it comes to how one goes about practicing the worship of/faith in the Holy Light, there is quite a bit of latitude. And this is mainly because of the events of the Third War. Because first & foremost, it in effect created the Scarlet Crusade and later, the Argent Dawn from that as well as other similar organizations. And all of them have altered the teachings of the Holy Light quite a bit.

    Second, with the destruction of Lordaeron, much of the teachings of the Holy Light were lost with the burning of many texts containing such knowledge. As a result, the teachings of the Holy Light are now primarily passed on by word of mouth from the experienced to the laymen. And furthermore, some practitioners have taken up the charge to reproduce the lost works. However, some of them are using this opportunity to refresh the teachings, doing away with the older traditions in lieu of what they consider a “better way”. And a result, there now quite a few contradictions in what people believe to say the least.

    So with all that, as a follower of the Holy Light. One could manage to be one of the few to have been taught the original teachings, been taught by one who has, been one to go a bit more radical and join the Scarlet Crusade, Argent Dawn or other such organizations, are now following one of the many new versions of the Holy Light recently created or even perhaps are even one of the people to have created a new interpretation. And with all that, you can pretty much believe generally anything you like, as nothing really is off limits per say.

    But for those who don’t want to go to deep into the now many intricacies laid before them. I say, the easiest way to be a good follower of the Holy Light is to simply go by the three virtues as closely as you think you should or rather want to, similar to what Sean expressed about how different human societies will weigh the five different loci of morality differently. Because really, that is how people are primarily doing it on Azeroth.

    So in short, take the three virtues, put them in order of most importance to you and act accordingly. And of course, have fun with it! 😀

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