Modernists in every sense of the word, the Free Council claims neither ancient texts nor links to the ancient island of Atlantis. Instead they forge ahead feeling that Sleepers have touched on the supernal through modern ideas, science and technology. By learning these ideas the Free Council hopes to change the face of magic and revitalize it for the modern age.
The Free Council began as small, disparate groups and cliques of Apostate mages who were taken with new ideas circuating through Sleeper society at the dawn of the twentieth century. The origins of those ideas weren't completely new; mages were familiar with the concepts of 'republic' and 'democracy' and other popular phrases coined by the ancient Greeks. However, they were largely used among the initiates and apprentices of the Paths, and once they reach the rank of disciple largely forgotten once they grew out of such fantasies. But, for the first time in recorded Awakened history, mages began discussing the possibility that Awakened society might benefit from implementing these heretical ideas among themselves. While these groups were somewhat in agreement about the limits of the feudal system of Awakened society, there was no unifying banner under which these groups could organize; the Atlantean Orders of the day contemptously called them Nameless. The breakthrough came in the form of invitations from various representatives of the Seers of the Throne, asking these Nameless mages to join them in opposing the Diamond Orders and sealing Sleepers off from their rightful magical heritage forever. The emphatic, and rather insulting nature of the Nameless' response became known as the Great Refusal, marking them as intractably opposed to the Seers' goals. The screams of the Seers could be heard on the moon, and many junior Seers were executed, because Seers do kill the messengers. The Diamond Orders with considerable reluctance and concern about 'polluting" the legacy of Atlantis, accepted the Free Council as a vaild Order.
Since then, Atlantean mages and the Seers of the Throne, the former with pride, and the latter with hate, refer to the Pentacle Orders. Still from time to time, a Free Council mage or cabal commits a spectacular error, and members of the ancient orders rumble about how the incident proves that the Council isn't worthy of inclusion with the Diamond Orders. So far, the Free Council has remained a unified front, and keep its members in line.
The Free Council is a diverse body formed by loyalty to shared beliefs, rather than by necessity, and held together by its ideas more than its traditions. This sets it apart from the Atlantean orders of the Diamond, which were crafted in response to societal needs and are held together by traditions as cracked and ancient as stone. As a result, they have no fixed doctrine. Various schools of thought dominate the Libertines instead, each having its own view on Magic, Paradox and Humanity. Conclusions and absolute theorems are something that mages of the Free Council is very short on. This is, perhaps, not surprising. They value debate, innovation and freedom, and none of these values promote agreement or consensus.
In theory, the Free Council’s enlightened egalitarianism grants it an ideological flexibility that means the order needs no manifest of its own ranks, no internal census, to guide its decisions or shape its identity beyond the philosophies of its founding thinkers. In practice, this lack of self-awareness means that even while some cabals and Assemblies have excellent awareness of their own membership and strengths, the overall order is riddled with shadowy corners where hidden subcultures and extremist factions take root and grow.
Given the philosophy of freedom within the Free Council, it is almost impossible for its members to keep out of Sleeper politics. The form that this involvement takes, however, depends on the state in which a Libertine finds herself. There are a fair few in the United States who feel that their duty to Sleeper democracy is discharged by taking the trouble to actually vote in elections, and who then spend most of their energy on other projects. Assemblies living under authoritarian regimes tend to be much more active, and politically focused. Mages are often very good at avoiding mundane secret police, which allows them to get more involved in opposition activities than most Sleepers would dare to risk. The Free Council also takes an active interest in Awakened politics. As in other fields, they push for freedom and democracy and trying out new and better ways of doing things. This does not tend to endear them to the Atlantean orders, but it makes the Libertines even less popular with the Seers of the Throne, so most areas see an alliance of convenience, at least.
The Free Council offers an environment in which young mages' ideas are debated freely, but novices who expect total license to act as they see fit are in for a surprise. The Free Council takes democracy seriously, but doesn't take to every notion -- and there are many -- that is flung on the table. Like mages everywhere, libertines lead dangerous lives fighting rivals and searching for magical power. They believe in security and mutual aid. Empty rebellion doesn't help either. After running the gauntlet of debate and the sporadic violence of Council missions, survivors are tempered into idealistic but practical occultists who have a flexible set of capabilities. Libertines tend to be generalists outside of their arcane specialties. Their intense interest in culture and technology, and their iconoclasm, makes the ideal member a combination of engineer, anthropologist, and guerilla.
Many willworkers outside the Free Council believe that its mages are obsessed with the products of modern humanity, from techno-gadgets to conceptual art installations. Libertines themselves, however, insist that their true interest is in the Sleepers, as living human beings with something magical about them. Many mages put this conviction into practice, spending time and effort on looking after Sleepers. Sometimes this action has little direct relation to individual Sleepers, being more concerned with the good of humanity as a whole. The doctrine that a universal Awakening is both possible and desirable is paid at least lip service by most Libertines, and any Free Council mage proposing limits on it had better have really good reasons. In practice, most willworkers, even in the Free Council, do not spend much time working toward the universal Awakening, for the very good reason that mages do not really know how to go about it. No one knows why one Sleeper awakens rather than another, or what prompts the soul to cross the Abyss to the Watchtowers. Almost all Free Council mages agree that Sleepers are more likely to Awaken if they believe in the possibility of wonders that go beyond everyday existence. Instilling a sense of wonder in a community is thus generally regarded as an essential first step. This can take many forms, but the biases of the Free Council mean that it typically revolves around science and technology.
Stereotypically, the Free Council excels at using the Ars Nova, combining technology with magic. This is not always the case, but as many Libertines look to find ways beyond the atlantean system, every member has at least a passing understanding of techné. Libertines typically come to science and technology from the perspective of the difference between covert and vulgar magic. They believe that the distinction tells them something important about the relationship between the Supernal and Fallen Worlds, and that technological advances might allow them to make more effects covert. The magical methods of the Free Council can be summed up in “if it works, do it.” Functionality is the sole measure of validity so far as Libertines are concerned, not tradition or occult symbolism or how things have “always” been done. It’s the same attitude that sparked the Nameless War between mages more than a century ago and led to the founding of the Free Council as a place where the Awakened could throw off the burden of countless generations of tradition and find a new way of doing things.
The Free Council is barely 100 years old, so its members are bound together by its philosophy, rather than by traditions. There are three central tenets that all Libertines hold to be important, and one interest that virtually all Libertines share. One of the reasons that this is enough to hold the Free Council together is that these principles are radically different from those held dear by the other orders. The other is that the Free Council is, globally, only loosely united, which is the way most of its members like it. The three tenets go back to the Great Refusal in 1899, where the Council was officially formed.
- Democracy seeks the Truth, hierarchy fosters the Lie
- Humanity is magical, human works have arcane secrets
- Destroy the followers of the Lie
The ranks system of the Free Council is -by definition- fluid. Free Council cabals are run democratically, either by absolute consensus or majority vote. More than two cabals are organized in parliaments known as Assemblies, who are public and open to any Awakened who might show interest in debates. Anyone can bring up a point that is then in turn discussed by the whole Assembly (at least in theory). Most ranks within the Council are temporary and act on a voluntary base, in order to avoid hierarchies. Higher positions are filled via direct democracy. Each member of the Free Council has one vote to give in Order affairs, regardless of rank. Magical artifacts and lore can be accessed in special Lorehouses run by the Order, places that stand in contrast to the Mysterium’s Athenaeums.
- Voter- Basic members of the Order
- Host- Any voter who donates his space to the order for an Assembly or debate.
- Emissary- Mages who act as contacts to the Consilium or the Diamond Orders
- Minuteman- Council members that act as soldiers and protectors for the Order
- Letter Carrier- Emissaries that travel abroad to consult with other mages
- Citizen Agent- Minutemans that act as spies and watchmen for the Order. Their identity is often known, while their missions are kept secret.
- Strategos- The Strategoi are the generals, pundits, experts and directors of Free Council Consilii. A strategos represents a willful surrender of democratic power on the part of the people — the voters’ authority is invested in the strategos with the understanding that it will be paid back later. The post is only given in cities that boast an exceptional strong mage (and Free Council) population.
- Syndic – Orators and politicians that discuss ideas during Assemblies
It would be impossible for any one individual or organization to detail every faction within the Free Council, in no small part because the lines between faction and philosophy are so blurred. Many Libertines do not consider themselves to be part of a particular faction (and may be completely unaware of its existence), and yet their views and actions are strongly in line with it. Other times, an individual or cabal may believe itself to be following obvious Libertine dogma, and yet have actually formed such an extreme worldview as to be seen by others as a splinter faction quite different from the mainstream views of the order. The “factions” within the Free Council listed below are named after the observations of the Councilor Zeno, who studied the social fraternizing within the Order and issued a paper on that matter. The Free Council tends to be a haven for those whose beliefs, practices or viewpoints differ strongly from those of the Atlantean orders, to the extent that at times, the thing the Libertines have most in common with each other is how different they are from those outside of the order. Each Faction has internal diversions that argue how to follow this ideal and many cabals of Libertines may have radical different approaches to the same goals.
- The Wrights- Wrights believe that the act of creating is inherently magical and push humans into creating by forming situations of need.
- The Historians- The Historians are Libertines that examine their favored era with a surgeon’s discerning eye, looking for the success and the failure in each situation and extrapolating how to use those lessons learned in future situations.
- The Cutting Edge- The Cutting Edge (short called TCE) strives to push human innovations to the point that magic and technology become indistinguishable
- The TELM Trust- TELM Trust believes strongly in the power and freedom of their idealized form of capitalism
- The Freedom Fighters- Militants that keep the Third Tenet as the highest, going out of their way to destroy servants of the Lie
- Open Source Movement- The Open Source Movement (short called OSM) argues for the freedom of information