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Mantle of Responsibility - Summary

OP Commander Prime

This is a comprehensive summary of the Mantle of Responsibility as it appears in the Halo Universe through both the games and extended fiction.

Overview

“Guardianship for all living things lies with those whose evolution is most complete. The Mantle of Responsibility shelters all.”

– Cortana (Halo 4 – Requiem)


The Mantle of Responsibility is the obligation of the most evolutionarily advanced beings in the Halo to serve as stewards to all life forms of lesser capability which fell under their domain. In other words, those who hold the Mantle are responsible for ultimately striving towards the cultivation and preservation of all life. A majority of knowledge about the Mantle makes itself known in the main line of games (Halo: Combat Evolved – Halo 4) or in the entries of the Forerunner Saga (Cryptum – Silentium).

Origins

The belief in the Mantle of Responsibility originated from the Precursors, the ancient race responsible for genetically engineering many species in the galaxy including both the Forerunners and the Humans. They developed the concept from their philosophy known as neural physics, which maintains that the universe itself is alive, albeit in a way that is beyond the understanding of even the Forerunners. Both why the Precursors created the Mantle and whether or not it is also a physical entity are unknown.

"Precursors felt the Mantle extended to the entire universe, energy and matter as well as living creatures ... some say. The universe lives, but not as we do."

— Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting (Halo: Cryptum – 103)


The Forerunners later extended the principles of neural physics and established their concept of “Living Time”, which they define as “the joy of life’s interaction with the Cosmos” (Halo: Cryptum – 267). Within this philosophy, time is represented by twisting strands – world-lines – which link the fates of individuals when they intertwine – these junctions are called synchrons.

Forerunner Mantle

“The Mantle of Responsibility, for all things, belongs to Forerunners alone!”

– Ur-Didact (Halo 4 – Epilogue)


When the Precursors attempted to pass on the Mantle, the Forerunners firmly believed that they were first in line to receive it. However, the Precursors decided that Humans were more capable than the Forerunners; the Humans would receive the Mantle. Unwilling to accept the decision, the Forerunners rose up against their creators in an effort to seize the Mantle and drove the Precursors to Path Kethona and beyond, pushing their creators to the brink of extinction. In eliminating the Precursors, the Forerunners believed they had attained the Mantle and began to assume the duties associated with its mandate of ubiquitous stewardship. This point marks a schism which separates the true Mantle from the Forerunner Mantle, the latter of which the Forerunners would manipulate to secure their position of power.

After wiping out the Precursors, Forerunners developed and instituted a variation of the Mantle of Responsibility tailored to suit their own purposes. In fact, most of what comprises the Forerunner Mantle is fictional. The most prominent example of this departure is their redefinition of the most central purpose of the Mantle in order to ensure their supremacy; although Forerunners would aid the growth of life-forms they deemed inferior, the Forerunners refused to let other life forms continue to grow to a point where those could surpass the Forerunners and take on the Mantle. Their devolution of the human race at the conclusion of the Human-Forerunner war serves as evidence of this denial; in the Halo 4 terminal videos, the Librarian concedes that the humans possessed an evolutionary code which could surpass that of even the Forerunners. In addition, the brand “Forerunners”, selected by those beings on the premise “that others would come after us” (Halo: Cryptum – 31), appears to offer further evidence of this attempted cover up by the ancient Forerunners after the revelation of their actions in Halo: Silentium.

The Forerunners added several other elements to bolster their claim of holding the Mantle. They established what they referred to as the “Rule of the Mantle”, which is a set of instructions derived from the principle task that defines the Mantle. Furthermore, the Forerunners added a scriptural element that they could contribute to in order to enhance its credibility and established a religious set of prayers known as “The Twelve Laws of Making and Moving”. In addition, they instituted a position known as “Master of the Mantle”, whose only known duties pertain to securing a durance – timelock containing memories – and a bit of plasma from burial ceremonies of deceased Forerunners.

After thousands of years, the Forerunners finally faced a test they could not conquer: the Flood. It was only during the events of Halo: Silentium, when the Forerunners knew their defeat at the hands of the Flood was assured, that the defiant race at least conceded and handed off the Mantle to the Human race; the Forerunner Grow Through Trial of Change divulges the passing of the Mantle to Humankind in the epilogue of Halo: Silentium. However, in spite of the intention to pass the Mantle along, the Ur-Didact voices his reluctance to recede in the epilogue of Halo 4.

Physical Manifestation

Mantle of Responsibility

The above (attached) glyph is the Forerunner symbol for the Mantle. It is otherwise known as the Eld, or “Tree-Mark”. In the games, Forerunner architecture typically displays this symbol some form (e.g. engraved on the walls, disc shaped icon, hologram, etc.). For example, in Halo 4, the player can find metallic, silver discs bearing the same pattern and inscriptions on Ivanoff Station and on Requiem near the Cartographer. The Eld is so universally recognized that in spite of their disconnection and subsequent isolation from the rest of their race, the ancient Forerunners on Path Kethona still could identify the glyph and its meaning.

Similar Entities

One entity that develops concepts similar those held by Halo’s Mantle of Responsibility is the Matrix of Leadership from Transformers. Within the Transformers universe, the Matrix serves a similar function as the Mantle in that its principles come before its image, thus placing emphasis on a goal for all to strive towards. In addition, both the Matrix and Mantle require their holders to exhibit the highest degree of altruism.

What do you think?

Anything come to mind that should be added or removed?

Comments, speculation, and constructive criticism welcome.
Quote:
“Guardianship for all living things lies with those whose evolution is most complete. The Mantle of Responsibility shelters all.”

– Cortana (Halo 4 – Requiem)
Well, this is the Forerunner's interpretation of the Mantle, so is that actually not a misinterpretation of the Mantle?
At least I think so.
I mean, basically this quote are the pretty words for "the strongest in the galaxy has the right to police it", what the Forerunner's followed and did and what eventually was their doom as well.

I really do not think this is what the Precursor intended the Mantle to be, that it is some form of position, a police/guarding role that has to be filled but that it is a philosophy that has to be understood and followed, naturally by the most advanced being, since it is the most powerful and hence holds the most responsibility.

Considering when the Precursors decided to "pass" the Mantle and decided that the Forerunner's were not worthy of it and they wanted to see if humanity is worthy of it, when the Mantle had really represented the role to "guard all living things", then why did the Precursors, who would then had been the current "guardians of the galaxy", "wearer of the Mantle", did not put the Forerunners back to their place to guard the galaxy from the Forerunner but instead let it happen to get slaughtered by them to (apparent) extinction?

Hence I think obtaining the Mantle means more like understanding.
Understanding what it means to be the being in the galaxy whose evolution is the most complete, which holds the highest power and with it a great responsibility to all living things.
The Forerunners did not understand that or rather the Precursors decided that the Forerunners are not worthy enough to understand it, what they eventually proved with their "holocaust campaign" against the Precursors after getting told that they are "not worthy".

And so the question in regards to the Mantle is now if humanity will understand said philosophy or if they will fail just as the Forerunners did.
I'm under the impression that the Eld doesn't represent the Mantle at all -- but rather the Forerunner's campaign against the Precursors.

Those that exiled themselves to a remote world in Path Kethona out of the shame of what they had done left that symbol in the center of their village. If that symbol, what appears to be very important to them, was a representation of the Mantle, I don't think that Forerunners who realized the horror of what they had done would be willing to remind themselves of that false ideology. I believe that it's a reminder of their unspeakable crimes rather than a reminder of their self-attained duty to protect and guard all who live beneath their rule.

After all, the Eld would not have been the first aspect of the Forerunner's past that was forgotten.
Considering the already heavy religious imagery in Halo, and the fact that Gregg Bear, an accomplished and intelligent writer expanded on the Mantle's tenets, I would say it bears strongest resemblance to Catholic interpretations of "Stewardship of Creation".

It is the philosophy that the purpose of every person's life is to protect all other life, and to exhibit, as you put it 'the upmost altruism'. Much like the Foreunner mantle, it requires that you not dedicate your life to perusing fleeting pleasure, but to dedicate your skills to some purpose that preserves life.
The mantle of responsibility is not a shield nor a blade but a bubble. To keep all things inside( the universe) safe. If that bubble is burst( war between races). Then those inside will make reparations turning the bubble into their own. However in the event that one species could provide a more superior bubble they at the time coinciding with the previous holders would take it. Their should be no war if the species believe one another is superior.
This is a very methodical, and relevant post must I add.

If I may suggest add a part depicting what they can and cannot do. As the fact it is against the mantle to eat meat. Requiring them to go vegetarian. And the fact there was strict rules against suicide, although let's hope they never even thought of that.
This is very nice :)

I love that people are helping out on this post, I'm going to finish reading it a bit later.
FYI, Humanity has not been chosen as the definitive inheritors of the Mantle. Rather, we're the next in line for testing. "Humans will replace you. Humans will be tested next". -Primordium Page 364.
So dp you think cortana assumed a false mantle? If we have had it all along then only we can give it up right? But if cortana assumed a false mantle then why was the warden protecting her? That has to mean ether the warden is confused or cortana took the false forerunner mantle from us. Sorry for the confusing question rant.
Does anyone know the actual 12 Laws of Making and Moving?
Well done, I think you got most of the key points.

Especially pleased to see a distinction drawn between the Precursor interpretation and the Forerunner interpretation, this is enormously important to understanding the Halo universe I feel.
I would say it bears strongest resemblance to Catholic interpretations of "Stewardship of Creation".
This is very nice too, I'm extremely familiar with Catholic theology and I have to admit this never occurred to me.
Not to be a pain, but probably better here to create a new thread rather than revive an old one.
ll swift l wrote:
Quote:
“Guardianship for all living things lies with those whose evolution is most complete. The Mantle of Responsibility shelters all.”

– Cortana (Halo 4 – Requiem)
Well, this is the Forerunner's interpretation of the Mantle, so is that actually not a misinterpretation of the Mantle?
At least I think so.
I mean, basically this quote are the pretty words for "the strongest in the galaxy has the right to police it", what the Forerunner's followed and did and what eventually was their doom as well.

I really do not think this is what the Precursor intended the Mantle to be, that it is some form of position, a police/guarding role that has to be filled but that it is a philosophy that has to be understood and followed, naturally by the most advanced being, since it is the most powerful and hence holds the most responsibility.

Considering when the Precursors decided to "pass" the Mantle and decided that the Forerunner's were not worthy of it and they wanted to see if humanity is worthy of it, when the Mantle had really represented the role to "guard all living things", then why did the Precursors, who would then had been the current "guardians of the galaxy", "wearer of the Mantle", did not put the Forerunners back to their place to guard the galaxy from the Forerunner but instead let it happen to get slaughtered by them to (apparent) extinction?

Hence I think obtaining the Mantle means more like understanding.
Understanding what it means to be the being in the galaxy whose evolution is the most complete, which holds the highest power and with it a great responsibility to all living things.
The Forerunners did not understand that or rather the Precursors decided that the Forerunners are not worthy enough to understand it, what they eventually proved with their "holocaust campaign" against the Precursors after getting told that they are "not worthy".

And so the question in regards to the Mantle is now if humanity will understand said philosophy or if they will fail just as the Forerunners did.
Yes, it is unknown of what the Mantle of Responsibility is, the Forerunners just interpreted it as this. The Precursors never tell what it actually is.
And the fact there was strict rules against suicide
Hmm, what would be their view on self-sacrifice?
It's all very interesting and definitely begs the question of whether or not the human race will truly understand the principles of the mantle and keep it. As for the Matrix of Leadership, (the information and lore about the matrix is from the Aligned family continuity, the continuity currently endorsed by Hasbro) the Matrix of leadership was forged from Primus(creator and God of the Transformers race) himself and is passed down to each of the reincarnated 13 original Primes, the last being Optimus Prime. It also grants the strength, wisdom, power, and knowledge of the Primes he bore it as well as Primus. Has some similarities to the Mantle of Responsibility, but it's different because it's also a portion of the spark of Primus and as long as it survived, so would he; that's why it was so important to protect it from Megatron.