Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Cultural Context of Communion

The Origin of Communion

A race native to the same region of the Galaxy as the Ranathim, the Keleni, first discovered the phenomenon of Communion and, around it, created the philosophy of True Communion. Naturally telepathic, this race has an innate connection to one another and to their own ancestors. The origins of the idea of communion came from studying ways to deepen this connection, allowing communication across vast distances of space and time. Eventually, the Keleni discovered that they could interact with this inherent connection itself, that they could do more than just commune with one another, but that they could commune with the state of communion itself, this great unconscious gestalt that surrounded them and bound them to one another.

The Keleni had a rough history with other races. First, the great and terrifying Monolith Empire conquered them and shattered their temples and scattered them in an attempt to “cleanse” their temple-worlds. The rise of the Ranathim Empire broke the Monolith Empire, and the Ranathim allowed the Keleni to return to their worlds and rebuild their temples, but they introduced their own strange religions that they demanded the Keleni acknowledge, and they demanded slaves of the beautiful and graceful race. Whenever an Empire has arisen, the Keleni have found themselves under the boot of oppression. They became an oddity in the galaxy, an insular race often found in enclaves on alien worlds where they practiced their unique meditations and ceremonies regardless of what the prevailing ideology. Oppression only made martyrs of the Keleni faithful, or drove their faith underground, but it remained, made resilient through adversity and empowered by the legitimate enlightenment that True Communion gave them.

During their diaspora and while interacting with these great empires, the Keleni discovered that most other races lacked their innate psionic abilities and those who had innate psionic abilities, such as the Monolith or the Ranathim, were bound to entirely different, alien and dangerous forms of Communion (Broken Communion and Dark Communion respectively), leading the Keleni to conclude that their access to Communion was unique to them. Even so, other races, especially the dispossessed among the galaxy, watched the miracles worked by the Keleni with awe and wonder. Many began to treat them as sages, begging at their temples for a miracle cure, or to learn at their feet.

The debate over what to do with aliens who petitioned to join the ranks of True Communion sowed the seeds for the first true schism in True Communion. Traditionalists claimed that because only the Keleni could naturally access Communion, only the Keleni should practice it. They argued that despite the tenets of tolerance native to their faith, that all “people” should be brought into “Communion,” only fellow Keleni counted as “people.” They pointed angrily to their mistreatment at the hands of other races, to the unique Keleni bond, and to the need to protect their culture and way of life. On the other side of the debate, Keleni argued that true tolerance required patiently forgiving the sins of others. Some among them had managed to teach other aliens, such as the Ranathim, the means of Communion. They advocated strenuously that if the Keleni were a special and chosen people, then their destiny was to bring Communion to the entire Galaxy.

The Communion Crusades

This schism reached a head during the apex of one of the few golden ages of Keleni civilization. After the fall of the Ranathim Empire and during the rise of the Alexian Empire, the new Empire had largely left the Keleni alone and in a vacuum of oppressive states, the Keleni began to rebuild their temples and congregate around their homeworlds, and some became more open to instructing others in their faith. Humans, in particular, displayed an affinity for psionic powers, but had the capacity to reach True Communion and were willing to do so. As a result, splinters of Keleni sages, most famously the “Heretic” an-Kihata Istelen, also known as “Isa the Exile,” who brazenly accepted any alien as a pupil, even non-psions, claiming that Communion could unlock the psionic potential of anyone. He also preached against the excesses of the Alexian Empire, the moral cowardice of Keleni traditionalists and the encroaching menace of the criminal warlords of the Cult of Satra Temos

Not long after the excecution of Isa the Exile, warlords and slavers conquered the Keleni temple-worlds, slaughtering many and casting even more into the chains of slavery. The Alexian Empire did nothing, but the now numerous human and alien devotees to Isa’s preaching grew incensed and members of the Alexian aristocracy denounced the Akashic Order for its cowardice and short-sightedness, publicly converted to True Communion and abdicated their positions within the aristocracy. They lent their wealth and prowess to an impromptu crusade to secure the independence of the Keleni temple-worlds. This crusade drew former aristocrat and commoner alike, human and alien, in a grand wave of faith and zeal that succeeded in creating a new “Crusader State” between the chaos of the Dark Arm and the Alexian Empire. The great heroes of the crusade openly ruled the worlds as adherents to this new form of True Communion that accepted all races into its mix. The former aristocracy understood how to rule, and took up de facto leadership of the new interstellar state, acting as the first Templars, the Knights of Communion.

A tumultuous and often mythologized period followed. The Space Templars, not the Keleni, ruled the Keleni temple-worlds. They rebuilt old temples and threw open the worlds to pilgrimages which brought aliens from across the galaxy to worship at and see the temples of True Communion. They brought wealth, new ideas and new cultures with them. The Keleni found themselves further divided: many reveled in the greater freedom and status afforded to them by this development and openly embraced this new, more tolerant and vibrant form of Communion, while traditionalists bristled at the corruption of their faith by outsiders, and the occupation of their native worlds by aliens. The shadowy forces of Satra Temos’s insidious cult conspired against them, while the Akashic Order brooded over their fading influence over the Alexian aristocracy and used their influence over the Alexian Emperor to slowly turn the Empire against the Templars of Communion. The Templar Worlds were doomed, and when it fell, it sent shockwaves across the galaxy.

The Fall of the Knights of Communion

The last Alexian Emperor, Lucian Alexus, declared war upon the Space Templars, while the Cult undermined them from within by turning Revalis White, a famous Space Templar, to their side. The Templars marshaled their strength, not just from their own Crusader worlds, but from the vast, galactic pool of faith that they had cultivated. The Templars slew the last Alexian Emperor and thus shattered his corrupt Empire. They unveiled the machinations of the Cult of Satra Temos and broke their power in the dark arm of the Galaxy. The Crusader worlds fell, the Order of the Knights of Communion vanished from history, but their sacrifice laid the groundwork for the era of peace and harmony in the form of the Galactic Federation that followed.

The fall of the Space Templars did not destroy The faith of True Communion. The Keleni still practice their traditional version of the faith in their scattered enclaves. Human and alien devotees hid their worship for a time, but many openly proclaim their faith, especially on the edges of the galaxy. As the Restored Empire of Emperor Ren Valorian weighs down the galaxy with its brutal oppression, more and more turn to the legends of the old Templars and their heroic deeds in freeing the galaxy from the tyranny of the last emperor, and hope that they might return to repeat the feat.

According to legend, five great masters survived the destruction of the Templars:

The Traitor, the human Revalis White

The Grand Master, the human Gladius Tao

The Kingslayer, the human Jax Elegans

The Laughing Sage, the Sparrial Rokoonooda

The Beautiful Nun, the Keleni An-Kihita Laelin, or Leala the Beautiful

With the exception of Revalis White and, possibly, Jax Elegans, each went on to found their own, smaller Chapter of the Knights of Communion, to hold onto their old lore and knowledge and when the time would come for the Space Templars to rise again, they would be ready to do just that.

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