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In my world, there are magical humans often called wizards (their scientific name is Homo magicus) (so, they are still humans, just not Homo sapiens).

They are traditionally a very religious race. Their society is a polytheistic theocracy, and is divided in five castes (from the purest to the most unclean):

  1. Clergy (that includes monks and nuns, shamans, and priests and priestesses);
  2. Rulers, and warriors (that includes nobles, police officers, security guards, soldiers, and counter-terrorists);
  3. Businesspeople, and scientists (that includes farmers, traders, merchants, and medical doctors);
  4. Artists, sportspeople, and workers (that includes professional singers, professional martial artists, electricians, plumbers, miners, and sex workers);
  5. Untouchables/outcastes/outlaws (the homologues to Indian Dalits) (that includes street sweepers, latrine cleaners, pirates, criminal bikers, gangsters, mobsters, hitpeople, and spies).

In their religion, priest, priestesses, shamans, monks, and nuns can marry and reproduce, but, in the case of monks and nuns, only some of them do legally, because if they want to marry and have children (either biologically or by adoption), they must do something useful for the Wizarding Empire.

Finally, in the main Wizard religion, some neurodivergent people like autistics, schizophrenics, and empaths, are considered sacred individuals. Many monks and nuns are autistic, or schizophrenic, or empathic, or two of those things, or all those three things.

So, I wonder why would neurodivergent people be sacred individuals.

Note 1: there are non-magical humans (Homo sapiens and other species from the Homo genus) in this world, some of them are immigrants from the wizarding society, but most are treated like second class citizens (or rather, fifth class citizens, sorry for the pun).

Note 2: the deities are not real in this world.

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    $\begingroup$ There are a lot of historical religious figures who were clearly not neurotypical. Seems like the most important factor in treating such people as sacred is the ready availability of antipsychotic drugs... $\endgroup$ Apr 23, 2022 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Does everyone in this world have magic powers? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 23, 2022 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Are the gods real? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 23, 2022 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ There are non-magical humans, and the gods are not real. $\endgroup$ Apr 23, 2022 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ This aspect of the world you're describing is not so far from a possible history of Earth. We still just about retain the English euphemism "touched (in the head) [by God]" meaning variations of "mad", "abnormal", "simple". One who is touched by God is a natural candidate to be considered sacred! $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2022 at 20:35

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Savant syndrome, supernatural visions, and psychic abilities

Consider the case of Stephen Wiltshire, an autistic savant who can draw practically photo-realistic sketches of landscapes after viewing them only once. If you google "autistic savant", you can find many more examples of autistic people who have similarly impressive abilities. To a more technologically primitive society, that could be hailed as godlike. In the case of an autistic person, who struggles socially because of their very literal interpretations and struggles to understand social cues, this could be interpreted as them having the spirit of some supernatural being that lives on a higher plane of existence and therefore does not understand the ways of us mere mortals. A schizophrenic person is fairly straightforward, they see and hear things we don't so they must be special visions and prophecies and hidden spirits. As for an empath, the fact that they can understand emotions with such clarity could mean they have psychic abilities.

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Magic is hindered by ulterior motives

The neurotypical lives under the thrall of the frontopolar area, by the tyranny of executive function. What the neurotypical does, is done with a "motive" - it is a scheme to gain reproductive success, social status, security ... some "goal", lurking always in the background.

But your magic responds best to thought without any purpose beyond the magic itself. If you want to fly through the air to impress a girl, the magic splits its focus between lifting you and altering her emotions, which makes it both unreliable and offensive.

So your wizards value people who can simply be in the magic, nothing held back. A wizard might say that their "sense of self" is different. Your neurodivergent people are those whose brains have shifted functional areas forward, devoting less space and attention to executive function and more toward other thoughts. They do not have to completely lack any such thoughts - after all, it is convenient to find wizards who can be convinced to do things - but they are not dominated by them all the time.

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IT IS COMMANDED

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The world is a polytheistic theocracy. The gods are real and in charge. They decree that ". . . he who is of sufficiently atypical behaviour or ideation as to pose a hazard to himself or others shall be marked as such and elevated as the Most Precious of Our children."

The reasoning is unclear. Fortunately it is also written ". . . and don't you DARE try to discern my motives, you little sh-t. Just shut up and do what you're told. I am God -- got it? G.O.D. I work in mysterious ways. It's part of the job description. I won't repeat myself. End Transmission."

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    $\begingroup$ Not quite so plausible in a polytheistic society. Individual cults usually at the least emphasised different virtues. Pagan societies usually lacked universal religious laws. Gods of wisdom and knowledge are among the very most common types of pagan deities and it's hard to see how their cults will value being schizophrenic. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Apr 23, 2022 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @SeanOConnor They do as they're told and like it. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 23, 2022 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ That's what I mean though, polytheistic societies usually don't have a universal code. Pagan religion usually has a big gap that is filled by secular legal codes. Hinduism's caste system is the big exception but it's hard to imagine any sort of caste system elevating schizophrenics up from the level of their birth. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Apr 23, 2022 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ If the gods are real and very active in universe, Toril style, then sure. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Apr 23, 2022 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ @SeanOConnor The question did not specify, so I was indeed thinking the gods are very active. Appearing in the sky and in burritos and such. "I woundna be fond of the smitin' but when I do go at it, I go at it awful and very hard." $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 23, 2022 at 21:16
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State Care

In real life, often neurodivergent people rely on state care. This does not exist in your world and so they fall into the care of the most powerful organisation which is the church.

There is something in the scripture ". . . yadda yadda, atypical ideation, yadda yadda, once there was an autistic saint who had super cool visions, yadda yadda yadda, be nice to them". Fill in the blanks with whatever rationalising you like. Maybe take it from another answer? It doesn't need to make sense.

Edit: I guess one claim to sainthood is the miraculous ability to memorise the entire Religious canon and recite it at will. This either allowed the religion to spread to new places or saved it when their central library burned down.

Because they are sacred, Neurodivergent people are allowed live in the Holy Palace free of charge. They do not have to work, but some of them are REALLY good at duplicating scrolls and we just let them at it.

They have forgiving people to attend them, or bring them meals and heavy blankets, or stop other people touching them, or keep them away from loud noises.

The motivation behind why this continues is the same as why state support exists in the real world. We all donate to the church and they look after our neurodivergent people. There are monks and nuns specially trained for this so it is easier for everyone if our Sacred Children live in the Holy Palace and we go visit them.

On the tin it says something different but the result is the same.

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They're the accepted instruments of religious reform

Class #2 includes many that would love to end the theocracy (Theocracy's so oppressive! We should have an amoral plutocracy! HURRAH!).

As a result, the theocracy / class 1 is very determined to not allow change; change is seen as something which threatens secular rule, and the means by which class 2 might deliberately bring it about.

However, absolutely no system is stable forever, reforms are needed now and then, and the only people who you can rely upon to not be class 2 subversives - at least, not organised subversives - are severe autists and schizophrenics (empaths aren't a thing, IMO, and if they were, they'd be subversives all the time).

Various saintly reformers had visions or ideas which where acted upon in times of crisis by other clergy.

So, in other words, if you're not schizophrenic, you're seen as Jan Hus, but if you are, you're seen as a Counter-Reformation Catholic reformer (from the Catholic point of view, not the Protestant one, obviously).

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You need a separate class of household cleaners who are clergy in theory but cleaners in practice

You can't have sanctuaries cleaned by 'Dalits' but the dirty jobs need to be done. Most priests would rather be doing exegesis,prayer, administration, or even farming or charitable public service, so it's nice to have a group that a lot of the dirty jobs can be fobbed off to. Occasionally the schizophrenics have legitimate visions too, and sometimes the autists make great artists or musicians.

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Superstition

Of the three example neurodivergent groups you mention, one is, I believe, fictional: there is no such thing as an "empath." The other two are real things, and unfortunately neither is a particularly advantageous way to be. So, whatever rationale your society has for believing them to be sacred, it won't be by appeal to some useful benefit.

This probably means it's going to have to be a false belief, i.e. superstition. It will be said that these people are this way as a consequence of some contact with the supernatural that has harmful, permanent effects. This will be described as a kind of physical interaction of an affectionate sort, such as "touched," "kissed," "embraced," etc. Choose a verb associated with either family-love or cultivation (as in gardening).

If the supernatural force in question is commonly regarded as having a will, society will say that its intent in these encounters is not malevolent. Either it recognized something special in these individuals, or it was choosing them for some special destiny. Alternatively, society may say the force doesn't understand that these interactions can be harmful, like how a young child can injure a small animal by stroking or hugging it too hard.

If the supernatural force is regarded as an unthinking phenomenon, like the wind or the seasons, then society will treat this as the bad side of a double-edged sword, rather than bending over backwards to re-describe this manifestation in terms that do not reflect negatively on the force. "Yes, it makes possible all our magnificent magic, but this human toll is part of the inevitable cost of living so close (figuratively) to that awesome, turbulent power."

Depending on the particulars, a neurodivergent person will be treated as either a kind of living relic that is sacred because s/he was "handled" directly by a supernatural force we all desire to be closer to -- i.e. as a proxy for a kind of vicarious piety, rather than an individual with inherent human dignity -- or as an agent with a special, perhaps unknowable destiny, whose purpose categorically transcends any other human priority.

Their place in society will be decided by which of those two lenses society views them through: objects or persons.

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    $\begingroup$ oh yeah? If Empaths aren't real then what was Counsellor Troi in Star Trek? Checkmate Atheists. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 23, 2022 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ Empaths are real: the are the total opposite of psychopaths and sociopaths. $\endgroup$ Apr 23, 2022 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Daron A bad decision by Riker? $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Apr 23, 2022 at 21:13

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