The Masters Of The Measureless Mind
As he mingled with the gaudy parade, passing intricately crafted altars and shrines, breathing the odours of sandalwood and incense, woodsmoke and cooking, hearing strange musics drifting on the warm wind, Hari felt an unbounded delight at the rich variety of human imagination. He supposed that his father would have been dismayed by the unabashed veneration of imaginary sky ghosts, the endless elaboration of superstition, the flaunting of pointless scholarship, but it seemed to him that although these people had gathered to honour and exalt their various prophets and gods, what they were really celebrating was themselves. One of the itinerant philosophers who had taken passage on Pabuji’s Gift had once told Hari that small groups of like-minded people generated a gestalt, a group overmind or harmonic mindset that enhanced problem-solving, enhanced empathy, and reduced conflict. A useful survival trait, according to the philosopher, when the ancestors of all human beings had been a few bands of man-apes on the veldts of old Earth. Hari’s father had dismissed this and similar explanations of human behaviour as fairy-tales, but it was easy to imagine a kind of benevolent overmind permeating the encampment, binding everyone to a common purpose.
A small parade was coming down the road. Eight men holding poles on which was balanced a huge red skull with elongated, toothy jaws, followed by men beating drums or tossing firecrackers to the left and right, and a man who swigged a clear greasy liquid from a bottle and touched a burning torch to his lips and breathed out fire. As the crowds parted to let them pass, Hari saw the tent of the Masters of the Measureless Mind on the other side of the road, square and butter-yellow, just as Rav had described it. A black pennant strung from the top of its central pole snapped in the wind.
From Evening's Empires