Tradition Sphere: Forces
Paradigm Hermetic philosophy is complex and many-layered. At the heart, the Hermetics profess the drive to perfection. This drive manifests through trials, tests, self-discovery, and the rejoining of fragmented patterns like disparate languages or mathematical conundrums. Ideally, each individual has a Word, a divine imperative that drives the figure's revelations. By exploring the boundaries of that Word and all of its meanings, the individual rises to his inner nature, then beyond. Each step in the process is a challenge that requires a leap of perception but also opens the way to the next path. Eventually, the human passes far enough to become something cosmically divine.
Organization The Order of Hermes is, without a doubt, the most hierarchical of the Traditions. Initiates and Apprentices must serve under a mentor, who teaches the basics of magical theory and practice. After a grueling apprenticeship (traditionally, up to seven years, but often cut short in the heyday of the modern world), the supplicant challenges for recognition as a full magus — a challenge that can end with a return to apprenticeship, or even with death. Once accepted, each mage has his own sigil, a symbol of the individual's achievements. Although all mages theoretically have the authority to vote in Hermetic meetings, politics run at the pace set by the Masters and the ambitious. More than once, political leverage has shoved aside the potential for moral or material growth. Each step up the ladder of the Order reveals greater mysteries but also makes the student more beholden to the Tradition as a whole. Those who achieve Mastery are lauded for their high place and given the respect due their powers, but they can also expect to garner political opponents. Each Master is, in turn, expected to recruit and train a new apprentice or set of students. The cycle continues, with members indoctrinated into the Order's secrets but becoming steadily more embroiled in its internal struggles.
The Order of Hermes has a detailed code of conduct that lays out the basis of internal magical dealings. Among other things, Hermetic mages consider sanctums to be inviolate, they are forbidden from magical scrying upon other Hermetics, they are expected to train at least one apprentice, and they are forbidden from dealing with Infernal entities. Of course, these rules all bow to one simple axiom: don't get caught. Corruption of many sorts is rife within the Order. Breaking the rules isn't as punishable as breaking the rules in a politically unacceptable way.
Matters may change soon in the Order, though. With the death of experienced teachers and Masters on Earth, new mages must learn from the often-fragmentary knowledge of the remaining Disciples. Cut off from traditional support, political factions in the Order find no choice but to put aside their differences or go out in a blaze of glory. The Order finds that it has no choice but to pull together, and its many members are creating for themselves a new vision of the Tradition.