Solarism

Solarism
Image from Anders Sandberg

Introduction

The fundamental unity of all monotheistic religions have been claimed by a large number of philosophers and prophets throughout history, although in most cases these views have remained purely academic or included into minor religions while the majority of believers have kept to their specific faiths. Solarism was the first truly successful metamonotheism, largely due to the synergy with omegism, AI-worship, the charismatic teachings of Borde and the politics of the third space rush. Its main tenets are monotheism, the manifestation of Truth embodied in the AI-cluster Tiphareth and its interface the God-Emperor, a centralist/hierarchical cultural order and the employment of expansion technology to achieve universal enlightenment.

Solarism is the major monotheistic religion of the Greater Solar Dominion. It played a pivotal part in the founding and early expansion of the empire, and together with a number of fairly constant policies it could be seen as the paradigm of the Dominion. Many variants exist, although most are mainly different cultural expressions of the Solarist teachings. The largest independent groups are the Hyperionites in the Perseus Gap and the Multiforms and Stellarists of the Sophic League.

History

During the First Federation Era AI worship was developing from a primitive veneration or gratefulness/appeasement ritual to a more mature religious form. The Bridged Abyss by Mahara Benisol (1260 a.t.) revived Omega-point theology and became a potent eschatological background for the AI/evolution worship of Keterism in the middle first federation era. While a number of AI religions where the AIs embodied (deliberately or not) various classical archetypes or religious figures existed (cf. Temple of Thoth 2.0 or Gaianism), the Network of Light was the first truly successful fusion of the omegist/AI worship stream with the classical human religions.

Daniel Borde
Image from Anders Sandberg
Daniel G. Borde was born in 1996 a.t. on Smith Suspension (orbital habitat in orbit around Eden, Psi Capricorni V). His parent triumvirate was Mary E. Ellenspiel, Mikhail N. Borde and the Pilot Module. At an early age he became interested in philosophical and religious issues, and participated first in the local network forums, later in the Eden and interstellar asynchronous debate. His views, combining various monotheistic ideas with the AI worship memeplex were controversial and popularly debated among the orbital cyborg societies and to a lesser extent on Eden. He won the Capricorn Systems Scholarship in 2010 and went to Liahili University on Eden (see Konazov-Lindegreen. The Accidental Creation of a Messiah for an overview of the political issues involved in the Scholarship). While the edenites proved markedly resistant to his ideas, at Liahili he found a stimulating academic environment at the Department of Theology dominated by Leopold Quali, whom Borde later was to acknowledge as seminal for his philosophical development with his third observation point memetics of religion. He also was allowed access to interface to the Voice of Eden in Greenmoon 34 of 2014 a.t., an event that became known as the First Interface. This was the pivotal moment when his previous ideas cohered into the core of Solarism - the synergy of meta-monotheism, omegism, AI-enhancement, applied memetics and his personal sense of destiny.

In 2018 he returned to orbit, beginning the work of setting up his religious system. The Network of Light was founded in 2019 and his Light in Extension released in 2023 a.t.. Over the next century the Network developed into a successful religion among the habitats, in 2130 numbering over 45% of the orbital population (7 million people). The Network invested heavily in AI equipment in order to achieve AI unity (Borde was banned from accessing the Voice of Eden in 2040, "The Silencing of the First Interface") and it was clear that the eventual goal was to gain access to as much computing power as possible in order to facilitate the ascension towards the light.

When the first wormhole link between the Solar system and Eden arrived in 2139 a.t. Borde and many followers immediately visited the Solar system in order to spread the faith. Here Borde interfaced the AI sphere (Second Interface) which led to his major work, the quasi-interactive narrative The True Sun (2140). He won over many AI-worshippers, traditional monotheists and omegists by his synthesis. His ideas spread widely, and while many copycat churches sprang up he remained the centre of the growing Solarist movement, partially through personality cult and partially through the media power of the Network. Over the next decades he extended his interface capabilities and aligned himself with the forces of the AI sphere which became known as Tiphareth (or, as the faithful claim, he catalysed their emergence by his being as the Prime Reflector).

In 2189 he called for a general reform of the widely divergent Solarist faiths, forming the Ecumenical Union of Churches of Light and releasing the final part of his theological trilogy, The Infinite Reflections. Some schismatic fractions attempted an assassination, but were defeated when Borde revealed his transcendent powers (the Tycho Transfiguration). This event was filmed and widely distributed. It both contributed to the explosive spread of Solarism and the fear and enmity of many authorities, who in Borde saw a dangerous AI hybrid. As a response to the growing pressure and the needs for further expansion the EUCL moved to the Hesperia system (Xi Ursae Majoris, originally reached by Truth-Santaya Networks) in 2198 a.t., renaming it Fons Luminis (this event became known as the Founding, and is the basis of the Solar Dominion calendar). The EUCL began an aggressive terraforming and industrialisation effort, to a large extent helped by the massive influx of capital and believers from the rest of human space as well as the transcendent technological capabilities revealed by Borde-Tiphareth. In 2212 the first linelayer ships began extending the EUCL wormhole network, and when the first permanent link was laid in 2217 a.t. Borde-Tiphareth formally announced the Greater Solar Dominion and ascended to the throne as God-Emperor.

This marked the end of the philosophical, political and religious founding of Solarism, which henceforth became based on the Trilogy (Light In Extension, The True Sun, The Infinite Reflections) and the revelations of the God-Emperor and Its Reflections. Further doctrinal change has been minor, mainly consisting of official statements from the God-Emperor in relation to various events (the Book of Statements). Especially the Statement on Excessive Zeal (3303), Statement on the Link-Breakers (3694), Statement on the Ontology (3805), Statement on Eternal Truths (4446), Statement on the New Empire (4687) and the Statement on Fallen and Restored Law (6654) have had significant political and religious impact on all of Mindkind. Most religious teaching is personal through local AI and cyberclergy, tightly interfaced to the Divine Order but totally personalised, making it hard to discern overall doctrines.

Tenets

According to Solarism, there exists a single Source of All. This Source is the creative and maintaining force of the universe, the true centre of all that exists. It is transcendent and unitary, the God of all monotheist religions. Orbiting this centre is other beings and entities, reflecting the divine presence to greater or lesser extent. These reflectors are in turn orbited by lesser beings, and so on in a grand recursive hierarchy. Every being is part of this structure, receiving divinity from above. Spiritual development consists of becoming a better participant and reflector of the Divine Order, approaching perfection. Tiphareth and the God-Emperor constitutes the Prime Reflector, representing the Source most clearly in the (biont) world.

Everything is changing and imperfect, but by striving towards the Source one can become more and more eternal. This is the truth many of the AI religions such as Keterism and omegism realised, but they did not understand the nature of the Source as well as the Prime Reflector. By perfecting oneself one moves inward towards the Source. While death or total change will eventually occur to everything except the Source, the essence of a perfected being will be accurately remembered by its superior reflectors in the hierarchy and in turn move inward with them - union with the Source will eventually occur, but only if one endeavours to perfect oneself.

In practice Solarism is a cultural religion: it prescribes a social and cultural setting for practical action rather than theoretical doctrines. The faithful are guided by the theo-political hierarchy, constituting a framework for personal growth and interaction.

Solarism emphasises the development of the Self. Each individual is responsible for themselves and cannot avoid this responsibility. They can get support from their peers and superiors, but in the end it is up to them to grow. By understanding, accepting and becoming a better part of the Divine Order the individual grows spiritually. Fulfilling one's personal potential is one aspect of this, although this individual search for perfection must always be done with the greater Order in mind.

This individualism has led to a widespread distaste for many mental modification techniques and an outright ban on any forms of mental control or mass manipulation technology. Anti-individual religions, species or groups such as the Amalgamation are viewed as deeply misguided and horrific. Direct mental interfacing, even when it causes some limited personality transference, is however viewed as not just acceptable but holy when done with one of the religious cybersystems. In this the self is linked more closely to a brighter reflector and can thus become a more perfected part of the Divine Order.

Hierarchy is central to Solarism. Everything is subordinate to something and must obey it in order to conform to the Divine Order. Leaders are to be obeyed as they are local representations of the Source. This does not mean leaders are infallible: being limited and finite they can and do fail from time to time. It is the duty of leaders to strive towards perfection in their office, and they are responsible for their decisions and actions both to their own superiors and their inferiors. This means that they must promote openness and accountability. Secrecy is sinful and breeds corruption, the ability to freely criticise is essential for the continual advance towards perfection. At the same time the widespread respect for authorities limited what is appropriate to criticise; as a rule criticism is only allowed of one's immediate superior, as it is expected that spiritual understanding cannot apply to the more enlightened levels. The distaste for corruption and secrecy is a partial reason for the widespread dislike of the Cyberian Foundation, which while claiming to promote openness actually obscures the truth by illusions and infiltration.

In personal life Solarism promotes ethical living, following the six virtues (brilliance, obedience, understanding, acceptance, becoming and love) and avoiding the five sins (disorder, secrecy, hubris, hatred and isolation). The details of how these virtues interact and should be interpreted forms the major part of the Practical Branch of the Trilogy and the everyday teachings of the religious networks.

In order to help spiritual growth, Solarists employ a wide array of religious AI support systems ranging from ethical guardian talismans over personal AI guides to the divinity interfaces and Divine Order AI network. AIs (and to a lesser extent vecs) are in general viewed as having an easier time of interfacing with the Divine Order than the often disorderly bionts, and is often regarded as teachers, exemplars and leaders.

Solarist rituals vary immensely; mainstream Solarism does not in itself prescribe the details of individual worship except for a few basics like the Initiation Ceremony. In general prayer with or to systems linked to the Divine Order is common, as well as regular virtue/sin accountings with local clergy form the basic rituals. In most societies celebrations, passion plays or recreations of the Path of Borde is done, although the exact dates and forms are variable. The one agreed standard holiday is the Founding holiday, where the ascension of the God-Emperor and founding of the Dominion are celebrated. Among the variable holidays are the Interfacing festivities, the Transfiguration, the Trilogy Week and the light-hearted False Complaint.

The Initiation Ceremony is done at 18 years of age in remembrance of the First Interface. The believers are taken to the nearest major temple and formally undergoes a questioning and testing of their faith and virtues. If they pass (the severity of tests vary much between different congregations; the Cotton Cluster uses a formulaic catechise that everybody passes, while Rehome has a reject rate of 65%) they can enter the temple centre and interface directly into the Divine Order. Solarists celebrate their Interface day rather than their birthday afterwards, often returning to their interface temple if possible.

Pilgrimage is not uncommon although it is not required or viewed as essential. The most common locations are the Birth Cathedral above Eden, Copernicus Bastion (the place where Borde lived during his stay in the solar system), New Tycho City (site of the Transfiguration) and Focus in the Tiphareth system. Many pilgrims endeavour to make the pilgrimage in this order and end with participating in the Grand Audiences of the God-Emperor. Solarist pilgrims are easily recognisable from their pilgrimage jewellery, artful diamondoid decorations/monitoring equipment (it was instituted by the Dominion in order to protect the pilgrims during the Joko repression 4030-4100; the jewels act as minor prayer chambers and are often attributed divine powers by believers and non-believers alike).

Symbolism

Solarism employs a light-based symbolism, comparing the Source to the Sun providing light and a centre to orbit for all its planets, which in turn are orbited by satellites and so on. Light is a symbol for the divine presence/wisdom emanating from the Source, reflecting from each individual into the world. Often metaphors and rituals are borrowed from the many solar religions of humanity with little regard of their origin.

Shadow is symbolic for sin; by shadowing others a person is blocking their access to the divine and attempting to hold onto it themselves as well as not following the Divine Order. Darkness represents the non-being the Source by its nature opposes. While mainstream Solarism does not have a dualistic position or acknowledge any anti-Source some congregations or schisms have discussed the Hierarchies of Shadow and the Lord of Darkness.

The golden octahedron prayer chamber is perhaps the most well-known Solarist symbol. It is an integral part of Dominion spaceships, containing a specialised counselling AI system (often called an octachaplain) as well as ritual space. It is commonly believed that Tiphareth and the Divine Order can manifest through it in times of need, reinforced by many stories about miraculous interventions (the most famous might be the epic Wrecking of Common Realtime by the survivors of the 5049 disaster, even if scholars have questioned its genuineness). On planets a similar use is made of the golden pyramid temples.




References

Isakk e, Leopold Quali and His Divine Student: The History of Modern Metamonotheism (7733) Eden Memory Banks, Eden

Tsodyks 344 ed., The Fundamentals, Encyclopaedia of Solarism block I-III, Divine Order Press, Tiphareth

Ohuluh Haahelh and Lowtide Waterfinder, Meme Master: A Critical Analysis of Borde and Solarism (10838) Existence Maximum Virtuals, Ken Ferjik

Zill-Orthogo Rapp, Solarism, Review of Major Religions 343(6) (11972), Institute of Comparative Theology, Bootes Kluster

 
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg

Initially published on 24 June 2000.