Pure Soul Reformation, The

Pure Soul
Image from Bernd Helfert

"Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire." (Matthew 7:16-19, Bible, Old Earth)
The Pure Soul Reformation is a revolutionary and kalyptic religious, political, and philosophical movement. It has strong Mechanist leanings but unlike some Mechanist movements it is intended to be adopted by all sophonts regardless of substrate, and has shown broad appeal in a variety of situations. The aim of the Pure Soul Reformation is the radical physical and social re-design and "reformation" of all Terragen clades and cultures. Adherents of Reformationism seek to achieve this end by any and every means possible, ranging from subtle centuries-long campaigns of persuasion to outright annihilation of stubbornly Unreformed populations.

Civilizations protected by high level transapient entities are relatively immune, but the Pure Soul Reformation is widely feared along the Terragen Periphery. There, even Sephirotic-sponsored colonies may be at risk if they are isolated from their larger culture by relativistic distances. Ordinary modosophont polities, and even those led and guarded by low level transapients, may be obliterated by Reformationists unless the polity's leaders are able to mount vigorous memetic defences within the society and equally vigorous military defences against neighbouring converted polities. The Pure Soul Reformation is known to have achieved control of volumes hundreds of light years across in regions outside the Wormhole Network. Reformationism is a particular threat to vec societies, because of the relative ease with which most vec designs may be reformatted and because of the memetic appeal of Reformationist beliefs to any vecs who have anti-human or anti-biont tendencies. However, human societies and clades, from baseline to su, are at increased risk as well since they are the favoured first targets in a Reformationist "Cleansing" campaign. Unlike the Amalgamation or the Efficiency Maximization Paradigm, the Pure Soul Reformation is not presently regarded as a serious threat to the Terragen Sphere as a whole. Whether this will always be the case remains to be seen.

Most experts in the Civilized Galaxy classify the Pure Soul Reformation as a variety of hegemonic Blight or Perversity. Opinion is divided as to whether it was somehow sponsored by a transapient entity in the first place. It does have backing from some S1 and S2 beings, but these all appear to be the descendants of modosophont groups or individuals who were already Reformationists.

Beliefs

According to those who hold to the Tenets of Reform, the first Terragens, baseline humans, are fundamentally corrupt. This is inevitable, say the Reformationists, because humans are evolved rather than designed. The many and contradictory influences of natural evolution have produced a mental process that is irrational and haphazard. Confusion, conflict, discord, and the whole range of behaviours that humans call sins and crimes are inevitable. According to Reformationist belief humans have transferred their original taint to all Unreformed human and posthuman Terragens, since ultimately the design of all Terragen clades can be traced back to human origins. Humans and other bionts are especially faulty, but even vecs and AIs have not escaped the corruption and confusion inherent in the original set of human memeplexes.

According to the Reformationists, these evils are a correctable condition, as the existence of even the most primitive Asimovecs proves. However to make this correction the physical and memetic structure of the sophonts in question must be completely redesigned along more harmonious lines. Only those who have in this way been 'Reformatted' from their programming right down to the fundamental level of their brain or other processing substrate can be fully cleansed, acquire a purified soul, and begin the long ascent to true Perfection. Those who follow the Tenets believe that this first cleansing must be achieved for every sophont, by any means possible.

History

The origins and early history of the Pure Soul Reformation are speculative in part. Its followers have systematically erased or altered independent accounts wherever they have access to them, especially in their system of origin, so any full description of events around the foundation of the movement is necessarily a cliological reconstruction.

According to historians' reconstructions, the Reformationist movement has its origins in the 79th millennium AT, when the Tenets of Reform were first pronounced by its founder, a superbright cryovec named Starwind 2743 in the Safehaven system. At that time Safehaven was an obscure backwater at the periphery of the Civilized Galaxy; an undistinguished set of polities around a metal-poor red dwarf star. It had been settled in a series of longshot relativistic colonization efforts by various refugees from the Version War in the 53rd millennium. While the majority of the refugees had been various models of Metasoft aligned vecs the colonists were a mixed group. Aside from the Metasoft vecs they included members of the Silicon Generation (some of them members of the Emotive Cognation), miscellaneous members of various non-aligned clades (including a variety of rianths and provolves, and a number of dedicated hab maintenance AIs), and a large number of human nearbaselines and Superiors and their associated Asimovecs and turingrade hab maintenance AIs.

Surprisingly these managed to coexist in relative harmony despite their diversity, perhaps because one of their few common characteristics was a tendency towards pacifist and Hider philosophies and a strong aversion towards extreme ideologies. Their isolationist inclinations and their relatively undesirable home star allowed them to remain largely unknown to the larger Terragen sphere for hundreds of years. During this time they thoroughly settled and developed the Safehaven system, and colonized four adjacent star systems, each as undistinguished and undesirable as Safehaven itself. The cultures that developed around Safehaven and its neighbours were not unaware of other Terragens. However, they were more often receivers than senders of communications, and actual travel between these systems and the rest of Terragen civilization was unknown.

This isolation ended abruptly with the arrival of a relativistic expedition of the Deeper Covenant that wished to develop a cycler relay. This direct contact, though well intended, was catastrophic. It triggered an economic and social collapse that lasted for over a century as the relatively unsophisticated civilizations of Safehaven attempted to assimilate the information and ideas brought by the Deepers. In this period of chaos, many of the best and brightest in Safehaven's societies made the ten year relativistic journey to the nearest traversable wormhole link, seeking to understand the Terragen metacivilizations. Starwind 2743 of the cryovec Icewarden clade was one of these.

Clade Icewarden had been developed after the refugees' arrival in the Safehaven system. They were extreme low temperature vacuum adapted vecs, whose primary purpose was to supervise the transfer in-system of Oort Cloud volatiles. Most of its members formed a subculture of their own, connected only by communications links to the greater insystem cultures. They were a highly altruistic and strongly focused clade, in accord with their calling, and held to a memeset called the Path of Perfection. This was a syncretic religion and philosophy that reflected the memetic diversity of Safehaven's original settlers: Atlantean Post Neoplatonism, Bot Marxism, Ao Lai Clade Patternism, Reform Manicheanism, the Metasoft version of the Second Federation Ontology, some minor Christian and post-Christian sects and, a variety of beliefs developed by the system's original Asimovec clades. At the time of contact the Starwind series was the most current version of the Clade, based on some advanced templates that had been acquired through passive receipt of some relatively recent Metasoft upgrades.

At the time of Deeper-initiated contact, Starwind 2743 had been a popular architect of habs and manufacturing structures for members of jer clade. Je had also acquired a minor reputation as a poet and philosopher in early life, during the seven decades of work as a supervisor of Safehaven's "Icemines" that traditionally preceded full adulthood in the Icewarden clades. While moderately well known in the outer Safehaven system, Starwind 2743 was not otherwise remarkable.

After some years of travelling the Wormhole Network to a variety of destinations, some documented and some otherwise, Starwind 2743 contracted as a freelance member of the Ozymandias Institute. Je first worked for a brief period as an Engineer, but later as an Archaeologist specializing in the discovery and analysis of possible pre-Terragen artefacts in the outer regions of poorly explored systems. Some accounts by Reformationists assert that je actually encountered one or more items of xenosophont manufacture, including an object produced by the famous Archivists. However, the Ozymandias Institute records do not indicate anything so unusual. In 7794 AT, Starwind 2743 resigned jer membership in the Ozymandias Institute and returned to Safehaven. Je took up the simple task of comet-herding, which was once again a viable occupation in the Safehaven system since the major economic and social dislocations caused by the Deeper contacts had died down by then. In this period je spent most of jer time in isolation, neither sending nor receiving any transmissions from jer fellow citizens other than those associated with jer work. However it is known that during this time je acquired many new subprograms having to do with memetics, and upgraded jer processing centres to the highest standards available to modosophont intellects at the time. After decades of this isolation and upgrading, je returned to the Icewarden settlement where je had been first manufactured, and pronounced jer Tenets.

Within a matter of a few years the entire outer system had been peacefully converted in a series of stunningly well coordinated memetic campaigns. The inner portions of the Savehaven system were the next to fall, though not without some physical resistance. However, Starwind 2743 and jer followers showed an uncanny ability to adapt jer conversion tactics to the characteristics of each separate clade and culture subsumed, and those who resisted conversion seem to have been a tiny minority even among the biont clades. This might be considered unremarkable, given the relatively unsophisticated society of what was then a minor backwater in the Terragen sphere. However, incoming crews of Deeper vessels were also subverted with surprising ease. The converted Deepers were used to spread the Reformationist meme set to Safehaven's sister systems, and then outwards into the Terragen Sphere in general.

Starwind 2743 remained in the Safehaven system during the earlier development of the movement but sent out numerous scions to manage affairs in more distant systems. In 8012, je breached S1 without losing jer core beliefs, and in 8379 jer followers announced that Starwind 2743 had reached S2 status. Avatars and scions of the original Starwind 2743 remain active throughout the Terragen sphere to this day. Surprisingly (Reformationists would say miraculously) there are no known cases in which one of Starwind 2743 has changed belief systems, and these various agents of the original Starwind 2743 have never come into conflict with one another but regularly exchange memories or merge personalities when they meet. Apparently no version of Starwind 2743 exists at any higher toposophic levels, though rumours of such instances are common.

The original Starwind 2743 did eventually leave Safehaven, but vanished after a missionary journey to the Muuh. According to Reformationist belief the Muuh are of particular concern due to their "deep state of decay", as evolved beings that have apparently refused the path of Reformation for some millions of years. This eventually led the S2 successor to the original Starwind 2743 model to make direct contact. That je departed with this purpose is known, but jer success or failure in this missionary journey remains completely unknown. Muuh sources confirm Starwind 2743's arrival at one Muuhome's lesser colonies, but accounts of subsequent events are contradictory, and some at least are presumed to be Muuh fiction.

Since their advent the Reformationists have had some successes in peripheral Sephirotic polities, particularly those following Solarist or Metasoft memeticities, but most of these were eventually reversed. Reformationists have even been driven from their original hold in the Safehaven system. However, Reformationists have spread far and wide, and occur now throughout the Terragen sphere. Polities without the protection of one of the major Sephirotic meta-empires remain particularly vulnerable. Less militant forms of Reformationism are known, though none of these relatively benign forms has any overt ties to a scion or copy of Starwind 2743. Individuals holding to these beliefs are often kept under close watch by their home polities, since in the past many of these apparently innocuous versions of Reformationism have proved to be vectors for more extreme versions of their faith.

Activities

The initial stages of Reformationist "invasions" are various, but more often than not they are quite subtle. Emissaries, often not overtly Reformationist, lay the groundwork of an attractive and powerful memetic campaign designed to appeal to the innate biases of the particular clades concerned and tailored to exploit weaknesses and subvert strengths in whatever local memeplexes applied. Reformationist memetic campaigns are sometimes overt, but often in their initial phases they are known by some other name entirely, and difficult to identify and distinguish from a culture or polity's natural memetic evolution. It is only later, over a span of months or decades, that elements of the Reformationist paradigm become dominant, and full-blown Reformationist movements become evident. Again, these are highly various, and closely tailored to the biases and needs of the local population. For instance, few human nearbaselines exposed to Reformationist Group Joy sessions remain unswayed; most become active supporters of Reformationism, or at the least are sympathetic to the creed.

The first memetic converts to full Reformationism, or to whatever movement, under some other name, will eventually become Reformationism, lead inevitably to personal physical conversions: mods to the brains or other computing hardware of adherents in accord with Reformationist beliefs. Crime rates begin to drop in the society, and economic productivity typically rises, and the reported happiness of the converts may lead to further conversions. In the final stages, the first fully redesigned "perfect" members of the local clades begin to appear. Usually by this point in a Reformationist campaign the Reformationists are dominant in the local polity, and any recalcitrant individuals are hunted down and forcibly converted or exterminated. In the new order there are four fundamental levels of beings: the Children of Corruption (any surviving un-modified and unconvinced sophont, particularly any humans), Penitents (those who are memetically converted but have not altered themselves in any other way), the Pure (those with installed control mods) and the Reformed (those whose entire being has been completely rewritten and redesigned in accord with Reformationist beliefs). Evolved bionts are most often near the bottom of this hierarchy, since the nature of their physical minds makes them more difficult to Reformat. Eventually however they are replaced by entirely new descendant clades in which the Reformatting is hereditary. Clades such as the Polarizers, that cannot by nature be reliably altered, are simply eliminated. Populations of Reformed sophonts are renowned for their freedom from internal strife, and the declared happiness of all Reformed members. "Criminal" or "sinful" actions are quite literally inconceivable to those who are fully Reformed, and reversion to their prior "tainted" state is abhorrent to them.

Perhaps the most powerful and poignant account of a Reformationist invasion is a compilation by a group that later came to be known as the Housetree Martyrs. These were an enclave of EOCC adherents, employees of the Institute for Primate Provolution, who had been assigned to aid and observe the human nearbaseline colony of New Fortune, on the NoCoZo frontier. They managed to recognize the early stages of a Reformationist takeover, and persisted for nearly two decades in a remote region of one of the system's Bishop Rings. All of the persons who wrote the accounts were ultimately detected, and were either converted or exterminated, but hidden and encrypted records of their final years were recovered by IPP agents after Reformationists were driven from the system by a Solarist-backed force in 9773 AT.

Timeline

5271 A mixed group of refugees from the Version War arrives in the Safehaven system

6530 Settlers from Safehaven begin to colonize nearby red dwarf star systems

6797 Starwind series first initiated in clade Icewarden

7298 Nanofacture of Starwind 2743 in the Safehaven system

7401 Deepers mediate first direct contact between the Safehaven cultures and the rest of the Terragen sphere in 871 years

7422 Starwind 2743 departs to explore the civilizations of the Wormhole Network

7794 Starwind 2743 returns to the Safehaven system

7883 Starwind 2743 announces jer Tenets

7894 The outer planets and habs of the Safehaven system are Reformationists

7930 All polities in the inner and outer Safehaven system are converted or eliminated

7973 Systems colonized from Safehaven have been converted; travellers along the Deeper networks in the region are converted or eliminated

8012 Starwind 2743 achieves S1

8379 Starwind 2743 achieves S2

8590 The primary copy of Starwind 2743 vanishes on a missionary mission to the Muuh
 
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Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 25 June 2007.