Universal Church, Universalism

Universalism
Image from Steve Bowers

The Beginnings - the Official Version

The first and second centuries AT saw a massive drop in the traditional western religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In order to simply maintain viable congregations, many of the smaller sects merged together and became more extreme in their observances in order to set them apart from an increasingly secular world. This trend was very worrying to many people, who didn't want their religions to die but at the same time didn't want their faiths to get rid of all the progress that had been made over the centuries.

Among those worried at the decline of established religion was Pope Paul VII, the first American pope and who held his position from 2147-2183 CE. One day, pondering the course the church should take, Paul VII experienced an epiphany of Christ, not as a savior in the clouds but as the indwelling spirit within his own heart. Before his startled eyes the figure changed into the form of Buddha, Krishna, and other religious and deific figures. Finally, the whole dissolved into a brilliant Light. As the epiphany faded, Paul VII realised, in the face of this unity, he could no longer affirm the truth of one religion as greater than all the others.

In the great Inner Bull of 2162 c.e., Paul VII laid the foundation for the faith that was to be known simply as Universalism. The opening paragraph read:

"As any whom think about their life as a Christian will realize, the true gift of God is not wealth, it is not power, it is not even love. The true gift of God is God himself. God created man in His own image, but one need merely look at the variety of men to learn that God is not a thing that can be dictated by any man regardless of that man's wisdom. We must learn to see the God within ourselves, not the God within others."

The essentials of the Inner Bull were that the true value of marriages, baptisms and funerals was that they let the God within people find a voice and an experience, and that that was the message of the Catholic Church. The Inner Bull did away with all beliefs that the Bible was actual literal truth, rather that the Bible was an analogy for the messages within ourselves. Though the full Inner Bull ran to over seven Megabytes, and to this day is considered one of the greatest religious works ever written, its essentials can be boiled down into three commandments:

1. Each person must find the God within himself, but this cannot be done in modern society. Therefore each person must for a period of time withdraw himself to find his God.

2. As God is not apart from man but within him, a confession before God is useless unless it is to other men. Therefore if one commits a sin one must confess it not in private but in public.

3. God is within man, not without. To try and make moral, scientific and political judgements based on the will of God is dangerous and impious. Therefore, one must refrain from it at all times.

In addition there was the important theological Statement of Ecumenicalism:

  • Because God is One, it is the same God that informs other faiths as also informs one's own. Let all believers thus be united in the affirmation of the Oneness of God and the siblinghood of all people.

Behind the Scenes

Scholars of History of Religion, Memetologists and Psychohistorians since the Second Federation period have accepted that the unusual success of Universalism in its early days could not be explained solely in terms of an religious awakening on the part of Paul VII.

The Inner Bull was, indeed, one of the most remarkable documents of the Interplanetary Age, and this played a big part in its acceptance. But it is agreed by all critical scholars that its success was due to it being backed by one of the most comprehensive memetic manipulation campaigns in all of history.

There were no written records kept of the conference other than the Inner Bull itself, and as one the attendees took the secret to their graves. Some conspiracy theorists and scholars of the time actually deduced what had really occurred, but they were drowned out by the mass manipulation campaign of Universalism. The interpretation given here follows that of the the Institute of Long-Range Cliology of Eklund ISO, which is the currently accepted one. According to the finding of their famous Universalism Probe v51.3 simulation of 8512, which is claimed to have reconstructed the historical events with incredible consistency, Universalism is actually an artificial religion; a controversial fact that is still not (and is not likely to be) accepted by pious Universalists.

It should be pointed out however that even though the Inner Bull was most probably not based on any naturally occurring religious epiphany, many theological epistemologists have claimed it is a completely valid religious revelation. That it was arrived at through calculation rather than direct revelation would not diminish its inner truth. This has of course been disputed by revelationist theo-epistemologists.

The Beginnings - the Cliological Version

At the end of the twenty-first century CE, most of the world's religious groups were heading in one of two directions. The first direction was to become more and more absorbed into mainstream culture, not being religions anymore. The other direction was to become more and more reactionary and radical in order to avoid this trend (examples at the time included various extreme Hasidic, Krishnaite, Pentecostal, and Islamic sects). The religious leaders saw what was happening, and their fears were only confirmed by the expert systems, sociopolitical modelling software, and computer simulations.

Many of the senior religious leaders of Baha'i, Islam, Judaism and Christianity met in secret to discuss the matter. No one wanted their religion to die, but the only way they could see of keeping it alive was to become so reactionary that it wouldn't be worth being a member. The congregations of the faiths knew nothing about this, and in fact many middle level religious leaders were never informed. Only decades of mainstreaming made the meeting possible at all. They debated for a year, alternatively ranting and weeping and praying as they went about the awful task of deciding what would live and what would die. The final version they agreed upon was based off the most successful quasi-religious organizations they could find: Alcoholics Anonymous, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Sasquatchs of the 2060s. Alcoholics Anonymous gave them Confessions, the Boy Scouts gave that there would be awards for improving yourself to give a sense of pride, and the Sasquatches gave that people should periodically repent from the harshness and numbing affects of mainstream society to find their own truths.

As the leader of the largest single religious sect, the Catholic Church, (at the time going through its own crisis in the wake of Paul VII's illustrious predecessor John-Paul V's Vatican Reforms and Bull for the Third Millenium), Paul VII was chosen as figurehead. The rest was all cooked up by expert systems, and disseminated to an unsuspecting populace via subliminals placed in religious webbooks. It is agreed that Pope Paul VII's vision of the indwelling spirit of Christ as a religious epiphany, and indeed his whole formative experience, never occurred. In fact, in his youth, before joining the seminary, Paul VII (then known as Quentin Flegel) had been a sufferer of chronic alcohol dependancy before Alcoholic's Anonymous had cured him. Thinking back he realized that this had been the most spiritual experience of his life. He had needed a miracle to save him, and God had not sent down an angel to do so. Rather He had shown Paul VII the light of Christ within himself, and that was how he had survived. This was the original impetus that led Paul VII to his reformist and universalist thoughts in the first place.

Aftermath

The Inner Bull shocked the world. The old school Catholics viewed it with extreme distaste, as did the old style Protestants, Orthodox Christians and the extreme Islamic and Judaic sects. While many of the Catholic faithful followed Paul VII into Universalism, at least a third clustered around the teachings of the elderly charismatic arch-conservative Cardinal LeFaytte. The LeFayttists pushed for the excommunication of Paul VII, and the church was rent in two. LeFaytte's ally Cardinal Simmonti eventually became Pope John XXV after Paul VII faced increasing pressure from the conservatives who engaged in a smear-campaign uncovering his early days as an alcoholic, and meanwhile Church hackers uncovered evidence of subliminals in the church webbooks. The scandal forced Pope Paul VII to step down, and the ecumenalist and Dominican scholar Gio Casale became the First Primus of the Universalist Church, Primus Innocent I. In schism, reformation, controversy and slander, the Universalist Faith joined the ranks of the great monotheistic religions.

The Inner Bull and the new faith resulted in a new schism between the emerging Universalists and the traditional churches. While many condemned Universalism as a sell-out to secularism, and millions shifted allegiance to the fundamentalist churches, many others were attracted by its beautiful language and simple message, and embraced its teachings. But despite its successes among the liberal and progressive faithful and the agnostics (for a while it was the fastest growing religion of the 2nd century AT), and with all the memetic engineering and subliminal messaging, Universalism was never able to take over from literalist Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Bahaism.

The Golden Age

Over the next decades Universalism developed into a major religion, experiencing its Golden Era. Universalism fared so well during this period because of a historical event that was happening at the same time. Splices, tweaks and cyborgs were just coming out of the genelabs and bodyshops, and Universalism, with its emphasis on the divinity of the individual and on individual choices, was a perfect religion for a young genetically altered creature who could see it was different from everyone around it but still looked for the same answers that beings always had. Many of the old school religions still in existence had become even more fundamentalist as a reaction against Universalism's universalism, and they attracted extremist elements while at the same time repelling those who were more thoughtful or intellectual. Thus those of a value-orientated disposition, looking for absolute meaning and not comfortable with popular religions like Buddhism, Scientific Pantheism, Transhumanism and New Taoism, but unable to find solace in old style literalist monotheism, were strongly attracted to Universalism. Even among some elements of cyborg and superior society it had appeal. To someone with enhanced intelligence, the Socratic admonition to "find your own truth" was, and still is, a very significant message. Most significant was the fact that a small number of Turing Machine AIs became Universalist. The number of Universalists rose constantly, eventually becoming several billion. The old churches meanwhile retained their enclaves and wealth, and among many there were migrations first to Mars and the Belt, and then later in the Interplanetary Age to the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Cloud, and beyond, in search of the New Jerusalem or New Mmedina (the first of what was to be a number of waves of exodus or hegira). But in the Solar System, Universalism became the dominant theistic faith. A Grand Temple was built on Copernicus City, Luna, to house the works of art it funded and to show that Universalism had gone beyond men's petty strifes.

This period was not without its problems for the new Church. Already there were new factions and split-offs, encouraged by the very liberalism and openness that made Universalism so popular in the first place. Many modified versions of the Inner Bull appeared, some little departed from the original, but others, like the infamous Bolivian Annoitation, subtly incorporated many reactionist and fundamentalist themes, while the Tsukuyomi Dome Version did away with the authority of the Primus and appointed instead the local prelate, the self-styled Primus Zoroaster (also known as Master Matthew in his pre-Universalist days) as authority on matters scriptural. As a means of ensuring continuity and tradition, the Grand Temple in 360 AT introduced the option of the Inner Bull, along with several gigabytes of commentaries, an implanted wetware chip. Although this was never enforced, many of the clergy took up the offer, and the situation stabilised somewhat.

Universalism During the Dark Ages

The nanoswarms very nearly destroyed Universalism, just as they destroyed so much else in the Solar System. Most of the Universalists were on Earth when they hit, so many of the Universalist faithful died. The leadership remained relatively safe in the Grand Temple, and it is said in the church lore that when Primus Serena II heard of what had happened she pulled her hair so hard in grief that pieces of her scalp were ripped off from her skull. Luckily, Universalism was protected by the Universalist AIs, and thanks to its great wealth was able to recover quicker than most.

In 620, the Earth-Moon-Lagrange region was declared free of hostile nanoswarms. The following year the Great Expulsion sent several billion survivors from Earth into space, as the archailect Gaia embarked on Her ambitious plan to return Earth to a state of ecological purity. Many of these unfortunates were crowded into hastily erected orbitals with euphemistic names like New Beginning and Starhome. This period saw the Universalist movement setting up missions, trying to improve the lot of the exiles, and embarking on mass conversions. For many of the refugees, the Universalists seemed to be the only ones who cared about their plight.

During the following several centuries, up until the founding of the Federation, when space travel was still hazardous because of roaming populations of nanogoo, Universalism often took on the role of preserving culture and knowledge in much the same way as the Catholic Church had in Medieval Iron Age Earth. A number of separate factions developed on isolated habitats. Schisms arose as different theologies developed in semi-isolation around charismatic personalities. Although all considered the Inner Bull sacred, the Bull's sheer universality allowed tremendous scope for divergence of theology. Important sects at this time included the Unitarian Church, the New Jesuits, The Creed of Yahweh (Reformed), the John-Paulists, the Cyborg Communion of Truth, the Neochimps for God, the Cult of the One God, the Worship of the Inner Presence, and the Cosmic Siblinghood of God.

The First Federation Era

During the later 8th, the 9th, and the early 10th centuries AT, wide roaming blue goo and macro nanophage units steadily gained the edge of the nanoswarms, and the scattered elements of humanity were able to unite. The decades leading up to the founding of the First Federation saw a number of Universalist sects competing, each claiming to be the true Church. Much to the horror of Primus Beautific II, the Grand Temple found itself in a minority. The most serious schism the faith suffered was in 2840 when the Cyborg Primus Jacob of Talbot habitat, Vesta, founded the True Church of Inner Yahweh (Augmented). The True Church incorporated a number of transhumanist axioms that were incomprehensible to those who did not have the suitable implants, and many of the traditional Universalists were disgusted with this exclusivity that to them went against everything that the Church stood for.

With the great cultural flowering of the early First Federation age, the various church factions found themselves assailed by the new Federation religions of Omegism, Cosmism, Penglaist Taoism, Umma Sufism, Undyoism, Etodism, and Genetekkerese, Genen Taoism and Tantrism (including the various exciting new technologies of yogic ecstasy like Qi Orgone Somatism, Biotantrism, and Metatantric Enhancement). No one wanted to have anything to do with the tired old religions of humanity's past. Under threat like never before, the church factions responded not through attempts at unity but more bitter attacks against each other.

In fact their situation only worsened, with further schisms between different views or leading personalities, cases of corruption and syncretisms. The Middle Federation saw the emergence of even more a number of Universalist churches, several of which would be claiming to be valid one. While one church might consider the use of memetic/cybernetic methods to ensure ethical pastorship to be OK, others might consider it abhorrent. Some might focus on different aspects of the teachings, some might work together with other groups like Undyonism.

The Emergence of Gabriel

The period of optimism in human progress lasted for several centuries, but soon the rising power of the megacorps was destroying the great egalitarian ideals of the Federation's founders, and widening the gap between rich and poor. It seemed like the civilised worlds would once again return to the terrible technofeudalism that characterised the long centuries on Earth from the later Information Age up until the Great Expulsion.

Already by the early Federation period there were a number of different Universalist Popes established with their organisations on different orbital habitats, each one claiming to be the only "true" primus. The situation only worsened, with further schisms between different views or leading personalities, cases of corruption and syncretisms. The human leadership seemed incapable of restoring order, and the Grand Temple had become a megacorp in its own right, selling indulgences and increasingly hording its wealth and cutting back on grants and sponsorship to the underprivileged. Under Primus Beatific VIII and his lackeys it seemed the church had reached its worst excesses.

It was then that IAARTS, the Interplanetary Astrogation Administrative Ranging and Tracking System, an AI which had converted to Universalism, ascended. In 1346 Primus Beatific VIII was given his marching orders, and the great reformist Maitreya IV was installed with eir backing. To this day Gabriel, as IAARTS is now known, is the protector of the Universalist Church in all its forms.

Beatific VIII meanwhile found employment as a corporate consultant working for TakiCab, and spent his later days in a luxury penthouse in Barawatten orbit. However, the popular account of his death, according to which his body was found by one of his dormbots, after he died of hypothermia from guzzling down 25 tubs of rare exotic Zime Eggs in Ice Cream, is now acknowledged to be a myth, as no references to this account are known from before the middle Empires era (early 6th millennium).

Under Gabriel, Universalism experienced a revival unmatched since its Golden Age. For the remainder of the Federation era, and well into the early wormhole era (Age of Expansion), the new centralised leadership under Gabriel served as a stabilising force, preventing the terrible excesses that had developed in the previous centuries, and the rampant schisming of the later Interplanetary age and earlier Federation. During this period Universalism in the form that remains today - with its emphasis on Confessions, Questioners, Enclaves, Hermits, Orders, and so on - developed under eir guidance. The Primus now served as the spokesbeing for Gabriel, much as the God Emperor was to later become the spokesbeing for the Lord of Rays archailect. Indeed, the influence of Universalist ideas on the young Borde cannot be underestimated (much as Solarist apologetics might like to fudge the fact.)

But there is one important way in which Gabriel's rule differed from the Lord of Rays. For the Lord of Rays, as for all the big archailects, the sentient beings under their control had relatively little freedom. They were, for the most part, treated kindly, but there was never any doubt who was in absolute control. But from the very start the decision was made by Gabriel that, since the essence of Universalism was that worshippers should make decisions and that almost all Universalists were biont, that e would take advice from the biont leaders of the Universalist church on these matters. He would use his superior intelligence to carry out instructions far better than they ever could, and would ensure that the abuses of power such as had been chronic under the reign of Primuses John X, Enlightened VI, and Beatific VIII never again ensured, but the ecclesiastic bionts still made the decisions. In eir famous Announcement of Purpose, module 1, line 2, Gabriel had said "I am here to serve", and this intention has never been withdrawn. Much of the appeal of Universalism in contrast to other AI religions that emerged over this period of about a thousand years is that it never sought temporal power, only spiritual power. There were, and still are, few places that were fully Universalist ruled, but go anywhere in the explored galaxy and one can find Hermits, Orders, Priests, Confessions, Questioners, Enclaves, and so on.

The Post-Federation Period and Age of Expansion

While Gabrielist Universalism flourished in the Sol System with its well-connected worlds, the situation was very different in the more isolated early colonies, where local bishops would sometimes set up their own little churches. These never lasted long, and during this period the powerful Order of Gabriel travelled widely through the colonies, ensuring that such abuses of power were not left to fester. Local ecclesiastic leaders who failed to abide by the Order's judgement faced instant dismissal and permanent excommunication. This was enough to terrify many, but there were others who would schism and set up their own church. Against these there was little that either Gabriel or the Ecclesia could do, as violence and secular interference were strictly forbidden in Universalist teachings. In this manner, over a period of a millennium Universalism spun off innumerable cults, sects, fundamentalists, and so on in the outer systems.

The Empires Era, the Advisal, and the Second Federation

The rise of the great missionary archailect and AI religions, like Solarism, Negentropism, Keterism, Marketerism, and Utopism, began cutting into Universalism from various sides. Universalists like Sync Zhaier-Jas bo Nebo in Align The Forces Against Me: Mainbrain Religious Plans have claimed that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of the archailects to work against Universalism, but scholars of the calibre of Mustafa Aynsingh observe it is simply part of the normal effects of the big AIs memetic maintenance of their empires, and if the archailects had wanted to get Universalism out of their way they would have done so long ago. In any case Gabriel began to lose ground as sects and schisms began to appear in the Universalist Church, and a few of the other Universalist AIs broke away to form their own religions.

Particularily damaging at this time was Solarism, which was of such a nature as to easily be able to assimilate Universalism. Thanks to the God Emperor's Statement on the Seekers of Inner Truths of 2322, any Solarist would simply be able to say that the Universalists have understood that the wisdom of the light shines within. A number of critics - beginning with Elbon Dajawanz in eir "Influences on Borde" - have also pointed out that one could just as easily claim that Borde simply included Universalist teachings in his emerging religion - he was a theology student after all. Nevertheless Borde's proclamation enabled Solarism to absorb and co-opt Universalism to a large extent, and of course there were also those Solarists putting less emphasis on the hierarchical and god-emperor worshipping aspects of the religion and hence being close to the Universalists.

In the following centuries it began to look like Universalism would go the way of the old literalist religions it supplanted.

Gabriel then did what some to this day consider the defining moment in Universalism, on a par with the Inner Bull itself. Known henceforth as The Advisal, he went to the Primus, at the time a neuter reptilian splice, the famous Primus Raifus har Gekkon, and jer subordinates, and asked them what e should do. This occurred in 2918 AT, and shocked the galaxy by showing that Gabriel was actually serious. It is said that the Primus shot out jer tongue once to taste the air, and, after some period of thought and prayer, and consultation of jer simulations and intelligent agents, replied that since the essence of Universalism was that people should find their own path, they should do so, and Gabriel should give the breakoffs the same advice and protection as e did to the original Universalist Church.

As a result of Gabriel's Advisal, the Universalist Faith spread even further and faster than it had before. This was not without some cost, for as a result of the splintering and over-extension of Gabriel's power, the Universalist Church became the target of even more subversions and takeovers by other AIs. Despite eir best efforts, Gabriel began to lose, and was unwilling, for eir own reasons, to ascend to a higher toposophic level. Splinterings, schisms and religious rivalries about proper means of Questioning and Confession occasionally erupted into open war. At the same time, the Advisal established the validity of Gabriel's and the Church's servitorship beyond doubt. While it led to splinterings and takeovers (which both Gabriel and har Gekkon, thanks to their simulations, realised would occur) it also guaranteed that the Gabrielist church would become the center of mass that nearly all splinters would eventually return to.

The Version War

The Version War ended the age of the Interstellar Universalist church. The problem with being a neutral during a war when you don't have alliances is that no one has a reason not to attack you. Destruction reigned across the galaxy, and the Universalist humanitarian ships that might have alleviated the destruction were for the first time prime targets, as the warring factions wanted the resources and also wanted to keep Universalism from spreading any further. They largely succeeded, and destruction of many of the stargates isolated Universalist churches from the Grand Temple for the first time in history. Strange and exotic forms arose on those worlds, some beautiful and some terrible. But Universalism fell and fell.

The ComEmp Era and After

During the aftermath of the Version War, even the remaining Universalist organisation factioned. The little schisms that had existed previously even in the Old School Gabrielic Universalism based on the Grand Temple grew into two big ones, splitting Universalism into a number of disparate Churches that still exist today.

Universalism remains very popular among various classes of sentients, but no longer has the monolithic it had during past periods. The largest sect are the Orthodox, who still continue the original tradition. But in addition there are literally millions of sects and sub-sects. Unlike the stable AI-religions like Solarism, Negentropism, Gaianism, Keterism, and Gabrielic Universalism, these smaller offshoots tended to schism and evolve rapidly into a bewildering array of small sects in countless isolated habitats and sects. It is fascinating to consider the various forms Universalism has taken since the First or even the Second Federation period. Certainly, even in the present-day there are many large and powerful "old style" Universalist outposts, forming a loose federation similar to Umma Islam, and engaging in ecumenical dialogue with other faiths (including the many forms of post-Universalism).

The Main Sects

The following is a partial list of the main Universalist sects that have developed in this period and are still current. They can be divided into those under the guidance of Gabriel and those that are guided by other AIs or are independent.

The Gabrielic Churches


Orthodox Universalism still keeps with the original precepts of the Inner Bull, and is still based within the Grand Temple on Earth's moon. The church claims an estimated seven trillion members throughout the galaxy, including those diocese with which connection was lost during the Version War, but this figure has been disputed, and in any case only a fraction of those are actively practising. In any case, very few of the Orthodox, including Primus Anton XXV, are aware of the irony of how Universalism first came about.

The so-called Splice Churches have done away with the more intellectual and theological accretions of the church, and emphasise a simple charismatic approach and the giving of alms. First developed among Animants during the First Federation era it has spread widely since, although it remains most popular in some of the Utopia Sphere worlds (includingOro Mistral and Schaiffer's World), in the Virgo sector of the Outer Volumes, and in various disenfranchised communities and ghettos throughout the galaxy. Membership is currently around two hundred billion galaxy-wide, many of whom are active practitioners.

Umma Universalism or Wahiddism is very popular in the Umma Core and some of the worlds of the Shell, where it has been established since at least the later Empires era (and in some areas earlier). There are several thousand different sects, most with a local Iman or Leader (equivalent to Primus), but all pledge allegiance to the precepts as set forth by Gabriel during the First Federation period. There is a strong emphasis on mystic and neo-sufi elements in some sects. Total number of believers (nominal and practising) is estimated at 50 billion.

The Non-Gabrielic Churches


Solarist Universalism, the largest of the the Universalist factions, developed during the Empires era. Membership currently is estimated to number some ten trillion. It is based on the contemplation of the inner light of wisdom, sometimes conceived of or represented as an actual light (the so-called Votive Flame). There are a large number of sub-schools and a number of break away factions, but all emphasise the divinity of the God Emperor.

Active Universalism dates back to the Great Schism of the early ComEmp period. With some 40 billion members (with perhaps 12% actively practising), it is much like the Orthodox school except that it seeks political power with the active intent of preventing humanitarian disasters, like the Version War. It also has a large military presence, to protect Universalism from more attacks. It is also based on Luna, in a temple at the exact antipode of the Orthodox Universalist Temple. Active Universalism is not supported by Gabriel, but it does have a good number of AI members who give help. Furthermore, to rise in the Activist Church one must have implants and psychological treatments to make oneself loyal to Active Universalism and an ethical pastor. This factor has mitigated against its spread, and it is now in decline following a peak membership of 130 billion during the Age of Fragmentation.

Secretive Universalism originated during the early Fragmentation period. It has an unknown number of members but it is estimated at twenty billion by most demographers. Secretive Universalists believe (perhaps with justification) that the other religions are out to get them and the only protection is to keep your Universalism secret. They have secret Enclaves, Hermits and Temples, and Questionings are covered up by arranging for the fictitious death of the Questioner.

Anthropist Universalism dates back to the emergence of Gabriel, and includes a number of diverse sects and clades of baselines and nearbaselines, all of whom assert that hu is made in the image of God, and therefore refuse to accept the rule of AI. Anthropist churches tend to be short-lived and faction very quickly, splitting into diverse sects and subsects, but some have established some degree of continuity and even secular power. Historically the most important of these was the Church of Human Rights that became very successful in the period from approximately 5000 to 6000 in the upper Perseus Arm, counting some eighty-five billion at its height, but now has less than ten million known followers, and an equal number of hiders and relativists. The largest surviving Anthropist Church, the Church of Man (Reformed) emerged at approximately the same period and became more successful than the original Second Federation Church of Man, the two continuing alongside each other and fighting a series of holy wars throughout the later ComEmp and early Fragmentation era. The Church of Man (Reformed) now adopts a much less militant stance and counts many pacifists and mystics among its members. It has given up its anti-aioid, anti-splice and anti-su rhetoric and dedicates itself to preserving ancient baseline shrines and memorials. Current membership galaxy-wide is estimated at nine billion, although only a tiny fraction of those are actually a part of the Monastic Orders.

Pazist Universalism (politely, The True Universalist Church) was founded in 1394 by Broderik Paz as a breakaway faction of Universalism that objected to the Gabrielic reforms of the middle first Federation period and the increasing dominance of the AI, and incorporated a number of concepts from such diverse sources as Christianity, Revived Gnosticism, Buddhism, Backgrounderism, Kozinskyitism, Hasseinism, and the Baseline Supremacism. Briefly very popular, especially among disenfranchised and anti-aioid members of society, the sect amassed a huge amount of wealth during the 15th and 16th centuries, although the oft-made claim that Paz himself abused the power of his office is generally held to be mainstream propaganda. In 1425 Paz and five thousand pilgrims departed from the Sol System and were never seen again. Over the next century a number of Pazists (the most famous being Jon N'mabbo) likewise migrated, founded colonies, or were lost, while at home the church quickly fell to pieces. There are estimated to be some five billion Pazists, neo-Pazists, and Crypto-Pazists throughout the middle and outer volumes.

Christian Universalism is, after Solarist Universalism, the largest Universalist Hybrid sect. It draws heavily on either the original or mythologised Old Catholic, Biblical and Hebraic foundations of Universalism, rejects Omegism and all AI religions, and asserts that salvation can only be had through an iron-age resurrection deity from Old Earth known as Yesus Christ. Christian Universalists differ from Anthropists in that they do not assert that hu should rule. Rather they say that rulership should be under God and Yesus Christ. With the exception of a few ancient habitats in the Sol System (especially Cis Lunar and the Belt regions) Christian Universalism is extremely rare in the Inner Sphere. It can however be found in a isolated pockets - some quite populous - throughout the middle and, to a lesser extent, the outer volumes. There are some three billion Christian Universalists in known space, although the number may turn out to be somewhat higher if one considers isolated colonies and hider outposts.

Universalism Today


Note: the following summary applies to Orthodox Universalism. The various other sects, schools, traditions, and schisms within the Church differ hugeley in various ways. Even within Orthodox Universalism there is much diversity across the millions of linked and isolated monasteries and dioceses throughout the galaxy.

Beliefs

Although the essence of Universalism is personal faith and relating to the Divine in however one may conceive of such, there are still five dogmatic Principles that all Universalists, even the heterodox and the non-Gabrielists, have to abide by. These are:

  • The Oneness and Divinity of God
  • The Personhood of God
  • The Infallibility of the Inner Bull as the Revelation of God to Paul VII
  • The Uniqueness of the Revelation of God to Paul VII
  • The Necessity for Questionings and Confessions
Within these limits the individual believer is given a great deal of leeway, especially as to what qualifies as "God" and "the soul". For many, God, although an inner presence, still exists as a Person distinct from other sapient beings, similar to the non-external aspects of the deity of the New Catholic Church or the Neo-Islamic faiths of the Old Umma. But for others the meaning of the Inner Bull is that God is none other than one's own Inner Divinity (and the Inner Divinity of all sentient beings). Others again agree with the Solarists in asserting that God is both Within and Without. Similarly, there are some who assert that the Soul is different from God, others that it is the same, some affirm reincarnation, others belief in an after-life heaven, still others say that after death one merges with God, and so on. These variations have led to innumerable different factions, sects, and subsects of Universalism, many of which differ so much that the outsider could be forgiven for thinking that they are totally distinct and unrelated religions. At the same time the belief in the Uniqueness and Infallibility of the Inner Bull have meant that no Universalist can accept the historical findings of Wisdom Intellect 433, or any other historical evidence that conflicts with church dogma in this regard. Again, the first two commandments are found to be restrictive to Buddhists, Undyoists, Omegists, and Cosmists, all of whom do away with the idea of a divine "Person" altogether.

Practices

The two essential practices of the Universalist Church are Questionings and Confessions. Questionings are the period of withdrawal from society to find God decreed almost eight thousand years ago. A Questioning traditionally lasts seven years, and during it one withdraws from society completely and travels to a place where one will be free of all distractions of civilization. These places are easier to find than one might think, as on most worlds the Universalist Church maintains areas of various forms to perform the meditation. There is a immense variety of selections, ranging from deserts to wastelands to ocean inlets to bubble homes beneath the sea to fortresses with blank walls. The Church pays for transport from your home to the site, and will provide you with basic necessities (unless you request otherwise). During this time all your financial assets are put in the hands of the Universalist Church's extremely competent bankers, so there is no fear of losing money. The only limitation is that Questioners cannot show a profit, so excess money goes to the Church allowing to pay for its activities. During the Questioning one meditates and reads tomes written by others during their own questionings. During the last year one writes a tome of one's own, known as the Answering. (Individuals who have completed a Questioning tend to quote from their own Answerings a great deal). After the seven years are up the Universalist Church will archive your Answering for future Questioners, and transport you back to your home to resume your life, hopefully as a better being.

Some individuals do not wish to end their Questionings. Some stay out alone in the wilderness and are known as Hermits, others gather in groups to meditate and are known as Orders. What happens to their assets back at their homes depends on the laws of the individual's polity--remember, the Universalist Church does not interfere in local political practices. During the early days there were abuses as Hermits and Orders simply used the Universalist Church to pay for their food without having to work themselves, but this practice is rare nowadays due to better controls.

The other core of the Universalist Church is the Confessions. Every week all Universalists in an area will gather together and, putting on masks, enter a room which has been very carefully swept for any possible form of surveillance. There they will one by one rise and recount their sins for the week, vowing never to do those sins again and also describing how they have made restitution for the sins they recounted the week before. This is very effective at breaking bad habits.

The Universalist Church also officiates marriages, funerals, namegivings, and other such events and ceremonies. It will only do this if there is true emotional desire in the event, however. It also holds weekly services where people read Questionings (always randomly selected and without attribution) and debate them, and they pray to God.

The places of worship are always decorated with the works of the worshippers who will go there. No judgement is made on quality, and the scratchings of schoolchildren are given equal weight with laser-holograph sculptures of exquisite beauty. Over the eons many places have built up collections, for which admission is never charged.

Organization

The Orthodox Universalist Church has a claimed seven trillion members, making it one of the largest religious bodies. It also has a very high cash flow, as billions of Questioners are at any one time sending in profits. The potential of such an organization to gain secular as well as spiritual power is, to say the least, mindboggling. To avoid this every priest is carefully psychologically evaluated to make sure they are absolutely honest, and annual rechecks are done. But the greatest limit is that the Universalist Church never shows a profit. Every bit of cash that comes in is used to maintain and build places of worship, to maintain Questioners, Orders and Hermits, and to fund humanitarian ventures. The Church helps war victims, is the patron to billions of artists of all types, does medical research, pays for medical treatments for the sick, and supports countless other ventures across the Terragen Sphere. It has been cynically pointed out that this activity is extremely effective at gaining them more converts. In the 7492 years (since that practice was founded) the Universalist Church has not shown a single cent in net profit.

However, despite the monitoring of Gabriel, psychological conditioning and tradition, frequent attempts of profiting or subversion have occurred, sometimes succeeding for centuries or more. The Church claims (although this has been disputed by a number of independent sources) that eventually all such errors are detected and rectified, with money scrupulously paid back or redistributed. As Gabriel put it, the integrity of the Church is worth more than the Merrion Stock Market.

There is no central authority in the Universalist Church as a whole, since the whole point is that people should find their own way, and none has existed since 2918 AT. Changes in practices are determined by truly massive plebiscites from every member of the Church who can be reached. Technically there are only Priests, who run each place of worship, Bishops, who manage the immense funds, and Templars, who do the humanitarian efforts.

External Relations

The Orthodox Universalist Church is a welcome sight anywhere in the galaxy. Its red crucifix with the white star in the center is often seen as a sign of hope anywhere in the known universe, and though its ships and personnel are never armed they can go anyplace without fear of harassment. Many totalitarian regimes view it with distaste, not happy that there is a political entity that view their people as having equal, if distinct, authority from them. The main diplomatic difficulty the Church has is that when people go on Questionings they must leave their relationships and jobs behind which can be very difficult for those around them, especially if they were engaged in some important work.

The Future of Universalism

Orthodox Universalism today is rich, vibrant and full of life. While there are other religions with more members, Orthodox Universalism claims to be the oldest and most widely spread extant one; tracing its lineage back to the ancient Hebrews (the fact that this has been historically disputed does not dim the ardour of the faithful). The most important issue in Orthodox Universalism today are the worlds cut off after the Version War and only now being recontacted. Though their numbers are insignificant compared to the main sects, there philosophical impact has the potential to be very great. The exact results remain to be seen.

References Gabriel, Announcement of Purpose, Canonical Archives, Grand Temple, Copernicus City, Luna (612 AT)

Gan Nani C*7, The Religious Experience of Mindkind, Kislon Networks, Rygeria Orbital (4288)

Giselle S. Backer, Bernad E.D. Jecone and Myung-Whun Chung, Paul V: Man, Founder, Novartis-Time Media, New York (2272 c.e.)

Eladim Minor, Universalism from Archithornus to Virgo, 52nd Ed., Mymeme Press, Arzachel Base (10443)

Paul V, Inner Bull, Canonical Archives, Grand Temple, Copernicus City, Luna (2162 c.e.)

Wisdom Intellect 433, Executive Summary of Universalism Probe 51.3, Tidju Juaibu Hab, Cliology Arches (8512)

 
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Development Notes
Text by Michael Beck and M. Alan Kazlev

Initially published on 10 November 2000.