That's a tall order.
The Celestial Bureaucracy is the system that was originally built by the Primordials to regulate and manage Creation. Thus, the purpose of the Celestial Bureaucracy is to regulate and manage.
Gods, in Exalted, do not embody their concepts. They are not "anthropomorphic personifications." They are supervisors. They are celestial functionaries. They're just guys (and gals) with homes and jobs and salaries and co-workers.
It was originally set up in a heirarchy. At the very bottom, you have what are called Least Gods. Everything in Creation has a Least God -- every rock, every pebble, every sword, every spoke of every wheel has a Least God. The Least God of a sword sits in the sword and makes sure it behaves in a sword-ish manner -- it cuts things, it stays made of metal, its temperature remains constant with that of its environment, it does not spontaneously combust, etc. Most of the time, swords don't do that sort of thing anyway, so the Least God of a sword spends the vast majority of the time asleep. Ideally, if something unusual happens to the sword, the sword's Least God is supposed to report it to its supervisor, which would be...
Here's where things get complicated.
It's a management heirarchy, so things are never clear. Does the god of the sword report to its specific manager, or does it report to whatever manager of conflict exists in the area? Does it report to a conflict manager at all, or ro a tool manager?
Because gods don't embody concepts, you can kill gods without killing concepts. The spirit of a particular stretch of river reports to the spirit of that river as a whole, who reports to the spirit of rivers in the area, which reports to the spirit in charge of rivers in that elemental quadrant (north, east, south, west, and the blessed isle counts as its own), which reports upwards to the Spirit of Rivers. If the spirit of a particular stretch of river gets killed, that stretch of river lacks a supervisor (until the spirit of the river notices the problem and files the paperwork requisitioning a replacement, the general Celestial Bureaucracy process the paperwork, and a replacement is sent and given basic job training), so it doesn't have anyone making sure it behaves the way it should. It might flood out of season, a demon might discover that it can lair there and remain unobserved, etc..
What happens if the spirit of a whole river dies? Well, that depends. Ideally, the spirit of rivers for the elemental quadrant notices and requisitions a replacement.
During the First Age, Exalts were supposed to do all the actual physical work, and spirits were supposed to stay insubstantial and observe, acting as information gathering. If a river spirit saw something wrong, it'd send a report up the chain, and the report would travel until it got to the point where the spiritual and Exalt bureaucracies interacted. The report would then get sent down that heirarchy and someone (probably a Dragon-Blood) would go investigate and solve the problem. If the problem were too big for the Dragon-Blood to solve on his own, he'd go back to his superior and requesition more force.
In the Second Age, this doesn't work. After the Usurpation, spirits started having to solve problems themselves, because the now-ruling Dragon-Blooded were too busy fighting succession wars and being decadent and recovering from Twilight boobytraps to do their damn jobs. Then the Great Contagion hit and many, many things were destroyed, leaving a whole hell of a lot of gods out of jobs.
For instance, remember how Creation got smaller? Well, what do you think happened to the gods of rivers and trees and cities and things when those things got eaten by the Wyld and stopped existing? They're stuck in Yu-Shan with no job and no income, that's what. Yu-Shan wasn't used to dealing with massive unemployment and homelessness, and I doubt it had a social security system. Dealing with these homeless gods took a lot of effort, and meanwhile Creation is still recovering from a huge war.
So in the midst of all this, a river god dies. The river's immediate superior doesn't notice because he's got squatter camps set up across from his mansion and he's afraid of leaving his house 'cause the squatters will mug him for food, and even when he does get to work he's absolutely swamped with requests for this, that, and the other thing.
Suddenly all the gods directly under the river god have no supervisors. What do they do? Well, with few exceptions nobody likes their boss, right? And now these stretch-of-river gods have no boss. They can do whatever they want! Well hell, one of them is good friends with a god who's now homeless, let's invite him away from Yu-Shan to live here, because here it's pretty good. We can exploit the natives for more worship and flood their villages if they refuse, etc. etc..
That's kinda how things went. It's how they're still going. At some point (thanks to a great deal of work on the part of the Sidereals and the Immaculate Order), a certain degree of order is restored to some places, and in other places the strongest gods got together and made their own order, taking over cities, annexing new areas of land, and beating up any gods who refused. But it's all a big confusing muddle, generally.
Did this help with the explanation?
- Stephenls (from RPG.net)
Everyone who plays Exalted should be made to read this. CAuse it just clarified, in short order, many a question that had been bouncing around my brain pan. DS
This is really helpful, Stephenls. Good job. - Seiraryu