Actually more a religion than an organisation, the Shining Path was formed little less than 400 years ago in 1007 AC when Elias the Meek first began preaching in the city of Nenbor in Errion. He preached a new religion without reliance on any gods or magic, but supported only by the power of the goodness of the hearts of men, of ushering in a new era in which man took hold of his own destiny and emancipated himself from all outside shackles.
In a time still influenced by the devastation of the magewar, Elias’ message spread like wildfire and within two decades, had grown to become one of the major religions of the west, so much that in 1032 the king of Amrond declared the Shining Path the exclusive state religion of his kingdom following a meeting with Elias.
The threat he posed to the established clergy of the west as well as arcane practitioners were countered by his pacifist teachings of spreading the teaching purely through harmlessness. In fact, the followers of the Shining Path were instrumental in helping the wrath of the Inquisition of Magic subside over time as they pleaded to the common folk to end their violent persecutions and address the question of magic through lawful and peaceful channels.
Today, although there are probably still more people worshipping gods than following the Shining Path, it has grown to become the largest religious organization in the west.
The Shining Path is dedicated to furthering study in all non-magical fields so as to empower mankind as much as possible to take hold of its own destiny. Its foundational tenets are that of peace, harmlessness, enlightenment and education. Consequently, devoted followers of the Shining Path are often educated and work actively to educate the common population.
Although it rejects the authority of the gods, the Shining Path nonetheless maintains that it has no qualms with the gods or their followers. It does however reject the practise of magic as a poisoned chalice which promises much but ultimately delivers only disaster, as mankind do not know how to control it properly and as such is not to be touched. Unlike worship of the gods, followers of the Shining Path actively discourage the practise of magic, although still by peaceful means of dialogue and education.
The Shining Path has a dedicated monastic order established by Elias to allow his followers to devote themselves fully to the holy life he preached which has widespread influence and hundreds of monasteries and churches throughout the west.
The Kingdom of Amrond is ruled by the clergy of the Shining Path and here the practise of magic is completely outlawed. Although worship of the gods is not expressly forbidden, priests of other religions are not allowed to erect temples or dedicated places to their deities or discuss their teachings with congregations of more than five people.
Elsewhere the political situation for the Shining Path is more tenuous. Its philosophy of equality, harmlessness and non-magic is generally considered dangerous by the upper classes, sometimes even contrary to the rule of the state (although its harmless means of preaching generally has the order moving within the limits of the law) and has a limited following among the noble classes, who generally rely on things like military power, magic and their own superior education as means to power.
Despite this, the huge popularity of the Shining Path among the common people has firmly established it as a major power factor in the west, despite its lack of favour among the ruling classes.
It is not uncommon for the common people to practise a hybrid of the Shining Path and other religions, acknowledging the doctrine of man taking hold of his own destiny through education and enlightenment, rejecting magic, but still paying homage to gods and spirits to receive good fortune in all kinds of matters.