We are pleased to have reached the contemplatives. / After hints in various sourcebooks, these cerebral beings were fully introduced to the Golarion setting in Distant Worlds as the Contemplatives of Ashok, a race of highly evolved monks. / Their inclusion in the prosaically named “Bestiary 4” implies that there may be similarly evolved entities on other worlds, though these lack the designation “of Ashok.” / Indeed, we are led to understand that in primitive cultures such as yours, imagery of telepathic brains is so common as to be a trope in your “science fictions.” // We pause for an aside: We reject, utterly, however, the common assumption in these works that such entities will necessarily reveal themselves to be unemotional or manipulative “monsters.” / Such prejudice cannot be borne. // Little more than brain-sacs, contemplatives rely on their profound intellects and spell-like abilities to interact with the world. Long evolved past your primitive human notions of morality or ethics, they are nevertheless rarely combative unless their long-term ends justify force. / You can be sure however, that many contemplatives develop formidable skills as spellcasters, and even the basest contemplatives can unleash a torrent of magic missiles. // Another aside: We are sure, at least. / The scale and scope of your comprehension have yet to be measured. // Let it also be known that a life spent communicating telepathically causes groups of contemplatives to have a largely…shall we say, shared perspective on life—something short of a hive mind, but communal enough that they prefer to speak in the first-person plural “we.” / Clearly, we approve, and look forward to the next step in the contemplatives’ evolution—on Akiton and on worlds across the multiverse. //
The barbarian sacking of the Opal Monastery has awakened a contemplative to the awful vulnerability of its withered frame. It seeks to craft a sturdier shell to house itself. With most of its fellows dead, there is no one to dissuade the contemplative from stealing corpses—or even committing murder—in the quest for raw materials for a carrion or bone golem chassis.
An unusual bardic college teaches songs meant to echo the music of the spheres. Perhaps they are right, as contemplatives float through the galleries and practice rooms as often as students or choristers. One contemplative has been corrupted by its study of the void, and begins secretly murdering students to communicate with dark entities. Can it hide its research from its fellows…or does the telepathy they share open them all to corruption? (And can adventurers identify a perpetrator who is just one floating brain among many?)
Orders of contemplatives are spread across many worlds. The Contemplatives of Ashem study doorways and portals they never pass through, as that would change their observations. The solipsistic Contemplatives of Nudal run visitors through a gauntlet of tests meant to prove that they do indeed exist. The Contemplatives of Raj Takan are pleased to serve a vile rakshasa master so long as he never intrudes upon their celestial observations, even going so far as to serve as his assassins. And the Contemplatives at the King’s Right Hand have a 500-year lease to study the angels in a heaven whose very divinity they can mathematically prove is false.
—Distant Worlds 60 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 41
Inner Sea Combat also has dwarven monks known as contemplatives. Just a coincidence…and yet…there’s always time travel…
Readers with long memories will be reminded of Jonathan M. Richards’s brain-like fungal sapromnemes from the classic Dragon #267. Contemplatives are the real deal that those fungi can only hope to emulate.