Malkionism provides a set of beliefs, practices, and traditions that support the development of magical specialists in sorcery. Whether that was its original purpose or merely something that it made possible is irrelevant.
In RQ, sorcery requires several things to be viable. First, it takes years to learn through study and teaching. Only a small percentage of the total population are going to be able to dedicate themselves to this – most of society needs to take care of more basic concerns such as food production, crafting, and fighting. Sorcery also requires time and plenty of magic points. Often far more magic points than the individual sorcerer has. While the sorcerer casts spells they need others to take care of their needs.
Malkionism solves these problems by dividing human society into four castes – worker, fighter, ruler, and magical specialist. Ideologically, Malkionism holds that members of each caste should be educated to perform their tasks as specialists. Potters should not be warriors, warriors should not be plowsmen, rulers should not try to learn sorcery, sorcerers should not be rulers, etc. People should do what their civic function is. Feel free to start lifting stuff straight out of Plato’s Republic, with Malkion playing Socrates’ role.
The other three castes make it possible to support a cadre of magical specialists. These also operate as “priests” of the Invisible God, and worship of the Invisible God provides them with pools of magic points.
Malkion gets called the Prophet in a lot of text, but really he is the great Philosopher. I look a lot towards Socrates, but you could also just as easily look at Confucious as a Malkion figure.
In the Godtime this all worked fine until Vadel twisted it (at least that is the Brithini version of the story). Maybe that makes Vadel a Diogenes figure? But in Time, it becomes all more complicated and filled with questions. By what means are people assigned to castes? Can you break caste taboos if it is really important? Should there be an even more elite cadre of people who know all the skills? Should the other castes offer sacrifices to the gods? What happens when a ruler and a wizard disagree? And so on. By the Third Age, several great schools of Malkionism exist, each holding the others to be so extreme in their wrongness as to be heresies.
The Second Age was the Golden Age of Malkionism, but even then, the Middle Sea Empire was mostly non-Malkioni. You had Malkioni in Seshnela, Akem and Jrustela, a few scattered colonies in Umathela, Ralios, Slontos, and Teshnos, and loads of “barbarian” tributaries (Ralios, Slontos, Fonrit, Umathela, Jolar, Kralorela, Teshnos, Teleos, etc). Think more the Mughal Empire or the British Raj than the Spanish Empire.
Socrates is not “problematic” unless you are taking the idea literally. But Diogenes’ criticism of Socrates and Plato – combined with how most people viewed Diogenes as being obscene (urinated on people who insulted him, defecated in the theatre, and masturbated in public).
“While Diogenes thus spoke, many stood about and listened to his words with great pleasure. Then, possibly with this thought of Heracles in his mind, he ceased speaking and, squatting on the ground, performed an indecent act, whereat the crowd straightway scorned him and called him crazy, and again the sophists raised their din, like frogs in a pond when they do not see the water-snake.”
It is only a conceptual leap from this to how the Brithini view the Vadeli. And who knows, we all find Diogenes the Cynic entertaining, but imagine an entire society of them!
Malkion as Master Kong has a lot going for it. To start with, Malkion didn’t write down his philosophy – that was for his son Zzabur and other followers to do. And unlike say the Red Goddess, Malkion spoke much about law, civic ethics, and politics (in the classic sense), as well as with the nature and structure of the cosmos.
Malkionism, unlike the cults Lhankor Mhy or Irrippi Ontor, is fundamentally a set of ideas about how to live life, the nature of the cosmos, etc. He and his sons provide no Rune Magic, but there are benefits and abilities gained from living life in accordance with his ideas.
Lhankor Mhy and Irrippi Ontor, in contrast, are primarily about the acquisition of knowledge. They have cult restrictions, that apply only to members of the cult and not to society as a whole.
In the Second Age, the most notorious God Learners may have been Lhankor Mhy cultists, not zzaburi.