Closely tied to the God of Abrahamic faiths (although its beliefs actually originate from the Ancient Egypt monotheistic god Aten), the One represents the source of all Creation and all Creation is believed to be a part of the One. Humans in particular carry shards of the divine within them, though it is known by many names: the divine flame, the soul, the Avatar. It is this connection which the Celestial Chorus believes enables them to clearly hear the One's song and to shape Creation. While their faith is essentially monotheistic, it is accepted that the Divine has many facets and can be expressed through any number of names, religions, and creeds.
Members of many faiths and denominations (including a variety of soft polytheists) come together in worship and service of the One, accepting that each person has their own path to the One. Of course, this ideal remains a work in progress and the Singers' history has been one of divisions and compromises, holy wars and martyrs, sacrifice and rejuvenation.
The One and PrimeEdit
The Tradition's doctrine states that in the beginning the One sang a Song, the Aum, and that infinite harmony split and formed into the One's children. All of Creation emanates from the Song, and the Song originates from the divine One. Thus the divine is everywhere, is in everyone and everything. People are the offspring of the One even as they are a part of it. And while the Tradition as a whole has not established doctrine on the exact nature of the divine, whether the One is a personal or impersonal force, and other theological questions, members are united by their belief that the One is a source of love and hope, and that it is present and active in the world today.
As the One directs divine energy to shape Creation, so too do the Celestial Choristers. Much of their magic is performed by beseeching the One for aid or drawing on divine authority to command Creation directly. In either case, it is not the prayers or rituals that bring forth miracles, but the mage's connection to the One. Their foci are thus designed to bring them closer to the divine through metaphor, religious reenactments, and expressions of love and compassion.
The Many, known by other members of the Council of Nine as the Pure Ones, are what people would call angels, devas or demons. If the One is the sun, the Many are the stars. They were lesser reflections of the One, but still bearers of the Song. They created many worlds, lands, seas and the creatures who inhabited them. Once the Dark Ones tried to make their own Song, the War raged and they vanished, but the Many were shattered and became Multitude, creatures of flesh and bone. As the inheritors of the Song of the One, it is up to the Choristers to continue the labour upon the Earth, showing mercy or terrible justice to their enemies, as the One did both.
For the Singers, the soul is what defines who and what a human is and also the divine spark that dwells inside everyone. As the One created the Many from Himself and the Many turned into a Multitude later, these manifestations of the Multitude, the higher soul or Avatar, is a shard of the One within a mortal cover. Being portions of the divine, all humans have the power to Sing and to create, but often that goes unheard and never manifests, never realizing their true worth. Once a shard Awakens and begins to Sing again, they get the power to shape reality.
But even as they are the carriers of the Song of the One who creates miracles and leads the men and women of the world, they should never set themselves above the common man as they also had the same spark inside and someday they may join with the Song even louder.
The Congregation has a multitude of different opinions about the phenomenon of Metempsychosis, known as reincarnation, as while some think that the soul passes through a cycle of life and death to reach Ascension, while on the other hand there are groups who say that there is only one chance in the Path to Ascension.
As the final goal to reality is to return again to an original state of absolute perfection and unity with the One, Ascension is nothing more than an Apotheosis by reuniting with the Divine, with some mages reaching it by their own efforts and others guided to it. That is why all the members of the Congregation should strive to reach this state by themselves and aiding others to arrive to it. Sometimes, a choice should be made between one or the other, and even if the glory of Ascension is absolute, the solidarity of halting one's path to the divine because of another is without a doubt something virtuous, and the Choristers firmly believe that the truly virtuous will have Ascension as a reward from the One.
Tools and PracticesEdit
As their name suggests, singing has long been an integral part of Chorister practice. It is viewed as one of the oldest forms of channeling the One, particularly when numerous voices join together in harmony, but it is only one of many methods. Blessings and curses carry with them divine energy. Divinations are often performed by interpreting dreams, casting of lots, or bibliomancy.
Anything that draws people together including simple touches, communal ceremonies, and even lovemaking are seen as ways to bring people closer to the One. On the other hand, fasting, self-denial, vows, and other sacrifices are seen as ways to free oneself from dependence on base needs in order to refocus and better hear the One's call. Likewise, religious rituals and symbols of faith are manifestations of the divine that can be touched and experienced.
A pray is, for a Singer, a way to manifest the firm belief in something beyond our reach and everything that the common world offers. The more customary prayers for a member of the Celestial Chorus are the petition, where one pleads to the Divine and the command, where the mage draws on the power f the Divine to rule creation itself.
One thing that the Chorus teaches is that the One is not a impersonal force of power. They believe that the Divine can be reached through love and wisdom, so they talk of the One as someone address a person they know and love, so a prayer is not a rote to call a spell but a conversation with the Divine and a way to nourish their own souls.
Prayer is where paradigms intersect, as even the most complex ones are based in the intervention of the divine in some way or another, meaning that the Choristers have easier than others to work as a team with other mages despite their beliefs and paradigms, being the sole exception something that absolutely opposes their Resonances and creeds.
Sacraments and SymbolsEdit
In the Choristers, there are many who believe that the One never favored the powerful or the great. The Technocracy may worship size, but the One could be heard in all things, even in those small. That the infinite and the finite kiss each other is the most basic proverb that the Chorister masters teach their new pupils. A sacrament is then a finite moment when the One manifests through an specific physical element, being that grounded in the history of faith or coming with little reason at all.
Sacraments in the Singers ritual work in two ways. First, as a metaphor, like how Christian, Jews and others wash themselves to purify their own bodies and souls or the sweet smell of incense symbolizes the presence of the One. This is, a connection between the Divine and the mundane. The other way is through synecdoche, taking a part for its whole. Christians communing with Christ by eating bread and drinking wine or Jews eating matzoh to be closer to God are examples of this. This is also the basis behind holy iconography.
Choristers divide their own history according to Ages
The First AgeEdit
Traditional Chorus teachings divide the history of Creation into Four Ages. The First Age, a period of time called the Shattering when the One's pure unity was broken, extends from the dawn of time to the second millennium before the Christian Era. The most well-known creation myth of the Celestial Chorus is called The Hymn of the One, an Avestan composition dating from over 2500 years old (even if that is only when it was written, so the hymn true age can only be guessed) preserved by a isolated sect in the Urals. This specific hymn refers to the One as a feminine force of creation.
The Hymn of the OneEdit
At the beginning of everything, the One was alone, so She sang a single perfect note that filled the Void with life. She then began to sing more notes, linking them into an entire Song little by little, and as the Song turned bright and pure, it dispelled the Void with a burning hymn. Giving life to each note, she brought life to the Many as she desired companions, and they sang along her in harmony, in praise of the All-Singer.
The Many created innumerable worlds, lands and creatures, making the One proud. For time immeasurable, She sang to the many and they sang to her in a melodic harmony. But discontent dwelt in the hearts of some of them who desired to sing their own Songs, who lacked beauty and were filled with discordance, so the nether-regions and darkness grew, filled with dark emotions. War followed, the One's Song rose in anger and the loyal Many followed Her, overpowering the Dark Ones songs. She forgave these rebels and offered them the choice to rejoin her Song, but they restarted their own Songs and a wrathful One did it too, so the One shattered the dissonant rebels and exiled them into the lesser realms of creation. But the ones who wavered and the faithful Many were also shattered during the War, so they also descended to the common world and the One went silent again.
The First SingersEdit
With the Shattering, Time also followed, and a world came to be filled with a Multitude of beings of flesh and frail mortality, with the Divine shards still sleeping within them. Some of them remembered, and those were the Awakened ones who would be known as the First Singers. The Choristers believe their original members and greatest heroes lived and fought during this time; heroes of immeasurable faith and power who bear names such as Bhishma, Enoch, Gilgamesh, Zoroaster, Gunder, and Mitras. Almost nothing is known of them, but the Choristers believe they were among the first to confront the Dark Singers, the Nephandi who from the beginning sought to destroy everything that had been made, and the Skeptics who doubted the One own's existence. Though perhaps beings of god-like power, the First Singers were mortal men and women with their own flaws and eventually some of them perished or were tempted into darkness. Still, Choristers remember them as the first to hear the call of the One and perform great works for humanity during a difficult beginning, caring for and protecting the people until the time would come that the call of the One was to be heard by all again. Their followers inherited their wills, but those days of near divinity were long gone. It was now the time of mortal men facing off against other mortal men, divided and surrounded by their enemies.
The Second AgeEdit
The Second Age, that spans from the late second millennium BCE to the 313 CE, was the era when the Congregation had its first gathering as a unified whole and acquired power as an organization of Awakened.
The First Congregation of AkhenatenEdit
The first true gathering of Singers is attributed to a priest named Mentuhetep, who during the reign of Amenhotep IV of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt in the New Kingdom, promoted the worship of a single monotheistic sun god, Aten, despite the scorn and wrath of his peers. It is said that after 40 days of wandering and fasting the One appeared to him, commanding him to gather the One's children that they might sing together in unity, a Celestial Chorus to guide the Sleepers towards the Divine. Though blinded by the visitation, from Thebes and with the assistance of the Pharaoh, Mentuhetep used means magical and mundane to call forth those who still heard the Song from across the world.
Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, now calling himself Ikhnaton in honor to their God, abandoned the city of Thebes and built a city called Akhenaten for the glory of the One. The other priests shower their anger and disapproval for the decision made by the Pharaoh, and predicted the fall of their city and cult, but their wrath fell on deaf ears as Ikhnaton and Mentuhetep continued their vision. The strange and lone Singers from far away were called, and even if they named the One by different names people from disparate lands and creeds gathered to take part in the Sacred Congregation. They were the Knights of Aten, the Chosen of Abraham, Gilgamites, Mithradites, Mazdeans, Canerites, Delphians, the children of Bhishma and Vallana, and other groups descended of the First Singers. A Grand Council was devised to make easier the communication between the various groups inside the Congregation while the first Adytums (Chantries) were established and grew in power and influence. This First Congregation hold reunions to sing their hymns, explain their own visions of the One and discuss the prophecies that were revealed to their members. Mentuhetep resolved that Singers needed the aid of others to reach the One, and it was decided that the names of the One were many but all were referring to the same God. Of those that left, many went on to construct places of worship for the Choristers throughout the world.
But the priests who were casted aside by Amenhotep IV worked on the populace of Thebes to raid them into a holy war against the new city of the Pharaoh. It is thought that the priest chief, D'halen Ra', was allied to the Nephandi. The hatred and inflamed opinions incited by them brought the destruction of Akhenaten, burned to the ground scarcely a one century after its completion, and the first Grand Adytum of the Congregation burned with it. As this showed them that they could not fully had their authority linked to the Earth, they decided to re-construct a new Grand Adytum in an Horizon Realm, with the Nephandi trying to interfere in its construction and ultimately failing.
Mithraism and ChristianismEdit
Faith continued to spread around the world, through kings such as Solomon and nations like Rome. Adytums and groups grew in influence, and at first the ones in Thebes and Memphis were the ones in the lead. The Theban Circle became the most influential group, inheritors of Mentuhetep's authority but once the Alexander's empire rose, the Athenian and Alexandrian Chorus rose as well into prominence. It was also during this times when one of the surviving groups of the Congregation, the Chosen of Abraham, protected the people of Israel and provided a basis to what would be Christianism, all from the Temple of Solomon, their Adytum commissioned by Solomon itself that survived two incarnations and finally was destroyed in 70 CE.
As Rome grew in power, the Chorus began to tie its power to Rome, and until the birth of Christ, Romans filled the Grand Council with almost all members being Romans. As the Roman Empire was seen as the supreme power in the secular world, the Grand Council thought that the future of the Celestial Chorus was linked to it. This lead to the Congregation gaining more and more Roman characteristics, with the Grand Council renaming itself as the Curia and the High Councilor was to be called the Pontifex Maximus from that point, gaining absolute authority. The centuries following Christ's birth brought the expansion of the Early Christianity, and deep changes within the Chorus were to follow. From the Holy Land came the Messianic Voices, a Christian group of Awakened who it was little more than a fringe movement at first, but that grew to be the rivals of another rising cult for the control of the Chorus' own foundation. This other cult was the Sons of Mithras, and by the second century of the Common Era, the rivalry between Christianism and Mithraism was in its high point. Christianism was not the most supported faith, but it had a strong voice and the eloquence and persistence of the Christian church won it many supporters. In the year 312, after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine embraced Christianity and permitted them freedom of worship, so the result of the fight for the Celestial Chorus itself was decided. By the year 324, just before the First Council of Nicaea, the Pontiff and almost the entire Curia were Christians, marking the end of the Second Age.
The Third AgeEdit
- Main article: Messianic Voices
The Third Age, from the early fourth century to 1325, was the time of the ascendance of Christianity codified over the centuries and having its power cemented, both through academic debate and at the tip of a sword. Many of the Chorus' greatest accomplishments were made during this time, but so too were many discarded in arrogance and ignorance.
Charlemagne and the Palatine KnightsEdit
The Messianic Voices became a strong majority within the Chorus, resulting in many other faiths becoming marginalized. The Sons of Mithras and other pagan groups fought valiantly, but they were either forced onto the sidelines or sadly removed from the Congregation. Militant forces popped up and caused much strife in both the mundane and magical spheres of influence. From this road the Cabal of Pure Thought was born, which stressed a need for a unified doctrine over any tolerance of religious diversity.
Charlemagne was the one who brought hope for a unified Christian Europe. Even if all Europe did not fell into his Empire, it was a impressive attempt at unity and Christianization of different lands and people, so the Chorus rejoiced as the vision of a Sacred City was believed to be coming to fruition. During his reign in the November 11 of the year 800, a group emigrated from Rome to Aachen, the capital of Charlemagne's empire, to become priest-knights at his service. They became known as the Palatine Knights or simply Paladins, taking holy vows to protect humanity from the forces of evil and darkness, inspiring many in the centuries to come.
Schism and CrusadesEdit
As the power of the Church rose in the Middle Ages so did the Celestial Chorus, but the predominance of Christians within the Congregation created deeper schisms with other faiths. The West wanted to gain the theological supremacy over Rome while the Eastern Singers wanted an equal status to the first ones, resulting in the East–West Schism between the Roman Catholic Church in Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople. The Cabal of Pure Thought tried to force a demand to the Byzantine Singers to reconsider by arms if it was needed, but the Curia and the Pontifex ignored their demands with wisdom seeing that it was more in common between Rome and Constantinople than some believed, so the Sacred City was still at hand and some degree of variance was to be allowed.
The Crusades were a high point in the Middle Ages for Christianity, especially for Roman Catholicism, and they also became a rallying-point of unity within the Messianic Voices. Members of the Church gained political power thanks to the Roman Church, and they used it as many rulers in Europe owed secular gains to the Church This formula for success lasted well beyond the Third Age into the Fourth Age. Simony was practiced for centuries. This policy within the various faiths caused constant friction within the Congregation of the Chorus. With time, the Christian control of the Curia and the Pontifex Maximus caused more divisions with the Eastern faiths, shattering the dream of the Sacred City with the Chorus not even realizing it. As the Crusade turned into a new way to marginalize the non-Christians in the Congregation, Muslim Singers and Jewish Singers became the enemy in a conflict between the Christian Singers and everybody else. The Albigensian Crusade was a victory at first for the Cabal of Pure Thought, but soon revealed itself as a defeat and the Cabal was removed from the Congregation shortly after it due to the repercussion from that specific Crusade. This would come back a century later to haunt them, when the Cabal re-emerged after March 25, 1325, as a part of the the Order of Reason and began the Inquisition.
The Fourth AgeEdit
- Main article: Chœur Céleste
The Fourth Era, from the Convention of the Ivory Tower to the present days, marked the beginning of the Celestial Chorus' slow descent. But great Singers like Valoran, Constantine and the Sister Genevieve kept that core together through the attacks of the Order of Reason and later the Technocratic Union, so the Chorus survived.
Warring with Hermetics and Verbena, divided both over Christian theology and the place of other faiths, and losing many of their own to the flames of the Inquisition, the Congregation faltered. The Hermetics and the Verbena blamed the Celestial Chorus for it, and that only brought more misery to them all. It was not until a man named Valoran (actually Valoran is a pseudonym for a person whose true identity was kept a secret), inspired by visions from the Archangel Gabriel, would the Singers have a leader capable of rejuvenating them, made peace with the Hermetics and Verbena and reconciled with the non-Christian voices that were forced out by the Cabal and other conservative movements inside the Singers. By 1461 a unified face could be presented to the Council of Nine under the name of the Chœur Céleste (Celestial Chorus, an ancient name rarely used given new life), having reconciled many of the differences that had divided factions and faiths for so long.
Confrontations with the Order of Reason and Nephandi strengthened the Singers' resolve, though further divisions within the Church and awareness of the evil wrought by the Inquisition created new troubles. During this time, the Protestant Reformation grew and as more groups splintered from the Roman Catholic Church, more divisions born. It was the outside enemies what maintained the Chorus united. Ironically, during this time the Celestial Chorus' growing doctrine of acceptance and united faith made it somewhat heretical to the many religious orders of the time, but the true danger was in the steady removal of religion from the lives of people at the hands of the Order of Reason. Over the next several centuries the Choristers found their influence get steadily weaker. Also at some point, as English gradually replaced French as the vehicular language of the Western Hemisphere, the Chœur renames itself the Celestial Chorus.
By the time that the 20th century came, those who would squabble over theology between each other inside the Congregation still existed, but they were a minority because as the enemy grew and more and more and people started deserting the churches and faith became as hollow as those empty buildings, the Singers perfectly knew that it was not the time for petty religious differences. The true battle was for the salvation of all and the restoration of hope.
The War in Heaven, the Week of Nightmares and the following Avatar Storm left the Celestial Chorus without their traditional leadership when Concordia and their Grand Adytum fell. The Reckoning meant the appearance of new leaders, like the former Technocrat Simon Pain or the Monist Aiko Kawaguchi. It also meant a reunion of the Templars with the Celestial Chorus when a several dozen of them deserted from the Craft and joined the Tradition. When the New Horizon Council was formed, Simon Pain was the chosen representative of the Congregation.
The Choristers had chaos in their ranks during the first years of the 21st century, with the loss of their old leaders throwing them into chaos and barely able to afford any dissension inside their ranks. The Tradition reacted to the mysterious Rogue Council transmissions saying that this new Council should show themselves if they want to be acknowledged, as God works in the open and a force of harmony not needs to be afraid to show its true colors.
The Celestial Chorus believes in the communion between humanity and divinity, hoping to show people to put aside their own egos and fears and learn that a gentle understanding of the cosmos surpass the impersonality of a logical world. Singers believe that humans are more than machines of logic, as all creation is more than cogs and the One cares about humanity as a whole.
The Chorus strives to show to everyone that their world is bigger and more than the science sponsored and devised by the Technocratic agenda. By compassion, concern and spirituality, the Singers believe that they can demonstrate to the people that humans can surpass their animal natures and try to reach a higher existence. Being a Chorister is not only about serving the One, but about serving all humanity and help them to surpass their fears, their hate and their greed to open a new path for Ascension.
The Congregation believes that religion is the best way to reach Ascension and concluded that any faith that ties the human to the Divine is a proper manifestation of the belief in the One. Etymologically, the word religion comes from religare, that means "to tie", so it is the link between humans and God and a proper road to Ascension.
In the Celestial Chorus, it is thought that belief is something individual that stems from personal experience with the Divine and not from collective dogmas, so the Congregation accepts the same a Singer that adheres to the tenets of the doctrine of an organized religion, as another one whose personal view on religions deviates from the common norm in said faith. The heterodoxy of a Singer is nothing more than a personal expression of beliefs, so those beliefs should only be judged in accordance to their choices and actions.
For the Choristers, the current religious diversity in the Tradition is a proof that the One can sing in very different ways, meaning that the One speaks to each of them individually. There are many examples of this, as it is the case of the representatives of the Ancient Faiths, like surviving Christian heresies, who always seek for new Catechumens to show them that spirituality is not something linked to a specific religion. The Baha'i faith is not as extended in the Congregation as one would believe, even if their teachings fit pretty well with the Chorus, mainly because their lack of missionary activity. The relationship of the Celestial Chorus with Christianity is obvious, and some outsiders get the common misconception that the Tradition is exclusively Christian due to it, but even if there is an obvious predominance of Christians in the organization the days of the Middle Ages where non-Christians were ostracized and a zealous, close-minded, loud minority of Christians ran rampant are thankfully over. The long history of the Congregation in the Indian subcontinent means that Hinduism is common within its ranks, and as the communication with them was minimal until the age of Valoran, they have their own hymns and scriptures and use their voice in the new global Chorus in an effort to reduce the Christian hegemony in the Tradition. Even if the Islam and the Chorus have identical goals, the reduced number of Muslim Singers is due to the Ahl-i-Batin playing the same role in the Muslim lands than the Chorus in Christendom and the negative effect the Crusades had, so the Muslim singers are usually converts or people born outside the Middle East. There is a long Jewish tradition in the Congregation, and they were one of the most negatively affected by the Chorus' history, with the Roman Empire, the ascent of the Messianic Voices and the Crusades, but even so most of the Jewish mystic groups joined the Chorus with some of them remaining as Crafts. There is even a place for novelties like the New Age, or old faiths like the Tribal religions or Zoroastrianism.
One of the utopian aspirations of the Celestial Chorus is the metaphorical idea of the Sacred City built on the love of the One. That ideal was broken not by the Prometheans and the Skeptics, but by the pettiness and infighting in the Chorus itself. But they still believe in it, even with some of them disputing the validity of trying to break the religious barriers and syncretize all religions into one, they still seek for a common love to the Divine, sharing a same vision and understanding that despite their different and sometimes antagonistic doctrines they are ultimately looking at the same One.
The Book of AgesEdit
The Book of Ages or the Theophanies are the official scriptures of the Congregation, a compilation the wisdom of all faiths within the Chorus that it had its first edition in English in 1465. They consider the book to be a living ever-growing document, so numerous editions and revisions were made across the long history of the Sacred Congregation. The original Book of Ages dates from the era of Mentuhetep, when disparate groups of singers were united into a single Congregation, and grew from that time as individual communities contributed with their songs and stories, with some of them getting obsolete and other gaining relevance, in a testament to plurality.
The hierarchy of the Celestial Chorus has changed little since the Roman Empire. As it is based on tradition, it has a enormous and organized administration. Some see it as a blessing thanks to the old and experienced leaders the Congregation usually has, and others believe that it is an outdated system who should be renewed.
Catechumen is the term for those who are still in the process of learning to Sing. They are the newest members in the Chorus and usually apprenticed to a more experienced mage, a Praecept, who instructs them in the ways of the order.
They are precious to the Chorus as they are seen as future shepherds who should be prepared to the noble goals that the Tradition holds. Choristers usually look for new members to the Congregation within noble or kind people who looks for the best of everyone else the better they can. The recruitment pool broadened in the last centuries, as in the past the Chorus usually searched among priests and members of religious orders but now do it in all branches of society, looking for activists, missionaries and as a whole, people who wants the betterment of human condition. Something that can only be determined by communicating with the candidate is her spirituality. It is not needed for her to be a religious adherent, but to have some sense to the Divine, and if she does not usually she is guided just to see if there is some spiritual growth within her.
Once it is decided that the individual is worthy of receiving preparation, she learns the Chorus ideals and is finally shown the truth, entering a period of Catechumenate where she learns the history, hymns and scriptures of the Chorus. This usually takes years, and once she is ready, she usually Awakens if she did not already. To the ones who are already Awakened without preparation, the Chorus dedicates important efforts in locating and guiding them with some instruction so they do not fall into ignorance or temptation. It is common for potential new Singers to be found by chance, dreams or visions, with some Choristers thinking that it might be the Sleeper Avatar yearning to be Awakened by contacting them and others believing that these visions are coming directly from the One.
The Pontifex Maximus, usually an old and well respected Singer who has demonstrated great wisdom, faith, and mastery of Prime, is the Tradition's leader and instructs the Congregation as a whole. Traditionally it is to be a lifetime position, but there had been some abdications in the past. He is the guide and instructor to all the Congregation, and more than a commander he is seen as a senior elder who should be heard due to his experience, but not a figure that the Choristers are bound to obey. Once the title gets vacant, all the Choristers gather to select a new Pontiff with a votation.
The Pontiff position is not one of absolute authority, and the Curia, the council of 17 ministers of the Chorus' eldest Singers called (of which the Pontifex and Primus are members) has traditionally asserted the rights to dictate the Congregation's mission as well as matters of faith. In the past the Curia would meet in the Celestial Chorus' main Horizon Realm, the Great Adytum, however the Avatar Storm has made this largely impractical. Once of the most important responsibilities of the Curia is to keep peace inside the Congregation, getting together all the different faiths and beliefs into the Chorus in an unified whole.
Beneath the Curia are the Exarchs, sometimes called "bishops", especially in areas where the Church is strong, they are tied a territory, their primary sanctuary being housed in a major city within it.
The lowest level of the true hierarchy consists of Presbyters, sometimes called priests or elders (especially for non Catholic groups), they act as the visible face of the order, functioning as local leaders and organizing the order's activities on a small scale.
Sects and FactionsEdit
Singers have their own characters and idiosyncrasies, some are academics, others are healers, demon-hunters... This also means that the Chorus as a whole recognizes a very big number of factions within its ranks. A political affiliation is tied to the influence that an individual can exert and the knowledge she can gain. Differences of approach between members can give a group a split on doctrinal matters or even internal schisms. In some cases, a Singer can be aligned to various factions or even move between them and the official standing within them depends on the faction itself, with factions ranging from full conspiracies to others being just labels to group a disjointed group of Mages.
The Guardian OrdersEdit
- Main article: The Guardian Orders
The most famous, most respected and the most dreaded factions of the Celestial Chorus, these guardians of faith keep the Song alive with their actions. Their names are certainly tarnished due to their mistakes and misjudgments serving to support the worst crimes of the Crusades and Inquisition, or the burnings of heretics and witches, still their guidance and protection are in demand more frequently nowadays. The Guardian Orders protect the innocent at all costs, from threats both human and supernatural, and often target large corporations, organized crime and corrupt politicians.
- The Brothers of St. Christopher: An exclusively Christian male (although they often work, travel and form cabals with women) order dedicated to protecting the innocent at all cost, even those with life styles condemned by religious groups. A young order of Christian social activists less than 20 years old, this extremely liberal Order's mission is to protect humanity.
Specialty Sphere: Mind
- The Chevra Kedisha: Jewish group which attempts to seek out and help troubled souls and lost spirits, assisting the dead move on. Taking their name from the people in each synagogue who volunteer to prepare the bodies of the dead for their passage. This organization founded in the Middle Ages are firmly committed to doing what they believe is right and and once convinced a soul's needs their help, they will stop at nothing to see that their charges are cared for.
Specialty Sphere: Spirit
- The Knights of St. George and the Dragon: An order founded in Syria in the 11th century and dedicated to protecting humanity from vampires and other monsters such as demons and werewolves, they admit women and non-christians freely. Emulating St. George and his slaying of the dragon, this self-professed knighthood practices the most powerful martial magicks and master the arts of war. Once the largest Guardian Order in the Chorus, fierce warriors at night, they were known as artists, statesmen and poets in the day.
Speciality Sphere: Forces
- The Order of St. Michael: An order of religious warriors who practice social vigilantism, in other words a faction which focuses on local communities and bringing justice and mercy to those who deserve it. They strive to make the world safe for all people and bring justice and mercy to those who them it denied. They usually target corrupt governments, corporations and organized crime syndicates.
Speciality Sphere: Forces
- The Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon: A strictly disciplined conspiratorial organization that has remained independent of the Traditions for centuries, but lately a small group of dissidents joined the Celestial Chorus. Even those are still wary of the other Singers and usually reunite in all-Templar Cabals, but some of them have begun to work with other Choristers and even members of other Traditions.
Specialty Sphere: Forces
- The Sisters of Gabrielle: An all-female order ancient order tasked with slaying demons and watching the Umbra. The oldest organization in the Guardian Orders (founded by a mysterious Singer named Gabrielle in the first millennium of the Common Era), many Sisters simply carry on with their daily task of fighting spiritual evil wherever they may find it, and lately have found a new impetus for collaboration with other Chorus factions and with the rest of the Traditions, where they were often only nominally associated with the rest of the Chorus before.
Specialty Sphere: Spirit
The Theological OrdersEdit
These groups focus more on introspection, theology, philosophy or religious orthodoxy. These orders attract those Choristers who work more in the realms of pure thought. They often come from various religions, and have various goals. They are unified by their love of thought and debate, and often their desire for change. The Theological Orders are constantly thinking of ways to improve the Chorus, their communities, and the world – even though their ideas do not always agree.
- Alexandrian Society: The most radical of the Theological Orders, the Alexandrian Society it is a faction of Choristers who seek to reconcile faith and technological advancements, seeking wisdom through science and divinity in all things and fighting for each individual's right to find a balance between science and faith. Users of Techgnosticism, they believe that the division between religion and science is artificial and imposed by the Technocracy, so they strive to overcome this problem by accepting scientific ideas into the folds of religious doctrine and hoping to revive the concept of sacred science, searching for divinity in common things.
Specialty Sphere: Matter
- Anchorites: Individual hermits, monks, and other loners who seclude themselves in the wilderness, rejecting human society for the divinity to be found in the natural world. Technically, the Anchorites are not really a theological camp so much as a group of Choristers who share a way of life. These mages are recluses in the Tradition, retreating from the world to pursue their own Salvation with meditation and prayer. Some Anchorites will venture back into the world if the Divine Voice calls them, or they feel they have some lesson to learn before returning to isolation.
Specialty Sphere: Spirit
- Children of Albi: A sect with gnostic influence that believes the material world is corrupt and that purity is found only in spiritual things. Following in the footsteps of the Albigensians, they reject mortal authority, generally only accepting the advice of spiritual beings. Anti-materialistic dualism, in other words, believing that the world is the evil kingdom of Satan, is a prime belief of this faction that descends from the beliefs of Cathar. They follow the Gospel and other apocryphal works, and believe greatly in separation of church and state. Once persecuted as heretics, they still do not fully trust the Chorus.
Specialty Sphere: Prime
- Latitudinarians: A movement to revolutionize the Chorus and remove a structure centuries old, arguing that traditions centuries old stifle the Singers and interfere with personal visions of the One. These Choristers believe that the rigid hierarchy of the Tradition must be radically changed. They fear that the ancient ways of the Tradition only encourage bigotry and intolerance. They want to decentralize leadership and promote more tolerant behavior towards the other Traditions.
- Monists: The Monist faction emphasizes the heart of the Chorus' message: all faiths, all people, and all creations are one. Tolerance and an open mind are pivotal. To the Monists, the One can take any form, and only human limitations cause differences of opinion. The Monists believe that world religion should be formed into a syncretion of views for one set of beliefs that all people could appreciate. They wish to unify Christianity with the other belief systems around the world. The Monists are often great diplomats and debaters.
Specialty Sphere: Prime
- Nashimites: A group which believes the battlefield for virtue is the Umbra, and that by actively purifying the mortal world the spirit world will be healed. This small faction shares some of the Christian Gnostic beliefs as the Children of Albi. The Nashimites believe in the possibility of a truly maltheistic divinity, for as mankind's soul becomes corrupt, so too does the One fall from purity. Since every individual is a part of creation, everyone as an influence in the final outcome of the Tellurian, so unlike the other Christian Gnostics, they seek to purify the physical world and bring hope back to the people for it to reflect in the spiritual world.
Specialty Sphere: Prime
- Septarians: A variety of unaligned sects of highly traditional, strictly conservative denominations of Christianity. The most conservative faction of the Chorus, these mages want to keep the Chorus distinguished from the other Traditions. They consider technomancers as vile as the Technocracy, and they feel the other Traditions caused the downfall of the sacred paradigm deteriorated. Naturally, the Septarians can hardly get along with one another, much less with the rest of the Chorus. Other Choristers rightly consider them arrogant, opinionated and sometimes even violently reactionary.
Specialty Sphere: Prime
While the greatest number of Choristers are from Christian churches and Judaism, they are not the entire Tradition. Since the first Grand Council, the Chorus has welcomed numerous other groups. These include Hare Krishnas, Hindus, Rastafarians, Sikhs, Mithraites, and others, as wherever there is faith in the One, there is the Celestial Chorus.
- Hare Krishnas: Worshippers of the Hindu god Krishna, even if relatively new for the West their order dates from shortly after the first Grand Council came together. They reject the caste system and polytheism, equating Krishna to a manifestation of the One. They are strict vegetarians dedicated to non-violence. To the concerns of the most traditional Hindus, their numbers are growing and most Chorus Chantries routinely receive heralds and pilgrims who follow Krishna, so they serve as outside mediators in minor disputes.
Specialty Sphere: Prime
- Hindus: Probably one of the first non-Judeo-Christian groups to approach Valoran were the Brahmin priests who represented one of the oldest continuing faiths in the world. Calling themselves the Vishnudharadha, they generally keep to themselves, rarely involving themselves in the arguemnts of the Tradition. These priests are among the most conservative and opinionated advocates of returning to the old ways, even proposing the separation from other Traditions like the Akashics, the Euthanatoi, the Cult of Ecstasy, Virtual Adepts and Sons of Ether. The Yogis are their contrast, rejecting the castes and living in a peaceful and open-minded austerity.
Specialty Sphere: Prime
- Jains: Peaceful ascetics, the Jains follow the way of the Jinas, spiritual teachers. They hold the precept of Ahimsa, non-violence and reverence for all life, going to great lengths to fulfill it, with strict diets consisted in foods that can be obtained without killing. Many of their members have have made their way to the Western lands to try and persuade all Tradition members to pursue their way of nonviolence.
Specialty Sphere: Mind
- Sons of Mithras: The Sons of Mithras make up a small but militant faction, that embraces the Roman cult of Mithraism. These soldiers still hold some grudges against the Chorus for the persecution of Mithraism by Christianity, but they serve as stalwart defenders of the Chorus, believing that all have a claim to security in the quest for the divine. Sons of Mithras are still a bit of an underground cult, but they are at least recognized by the modern Chorus. This society is a small but ancient group that considers themselves the guardians of tradition and the military leaders of the Congregation. They look for Catechumens with a military background, and are one of the more regimented and disciplined factions of the Chorus.
Specialty Sphere: Forces
- Rastafarians: The newest faith in the Chorus, they are sometimes viewed with suspicion as some of their early leaders were proponents of the black race superiority while the Chorus teaches racial equality and tries to end segregation. They believe that the One, whom they call Jah, was most recently manifest in the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, although the emperor himself was a strict Christian. Many are also associated with Ethiopian and Coptic Orthodox Churches.
Specialty Sphere: Time
- Sikhs: Sikhs rarely become Choristers, as some of their religious leaders prohibit the working of miracles or the giving of blessings or curses. Rumors say that they sill have connections with the Ahl-i-Batin, and some Sikhs in the West seek relationships with the Chorus although ongoing tensions with the Hindus have kept them from doing so.
Specialty Sphere: Prime
- Sufis: While originally being tied with the Ahl-i-Batin, there are a good number of Awakened Sufis who join the Congregation in the present days. Rumors persist that these Sufi Choristers are the guardians of secret intellectual and material Batini treasures and that the remaining Batini are using these Muslim Singers to communicate with (or manipulate) the other Traditions.
Specialty Sphere: Correspondence, Prime
- Bat Binah: Jewish women that have chosen to study portions of the Torah and Kaballah that were forbidden to them. Some Choristers think that Bat Binah may have some relationship to an ancient, hidden group called the Lions of Zion, but nobody would know what to make of this if it were true. All mages trained in this faction begin with the study of Prime, but they almost always eventually learn something of the Spheres of Matter and Life.
Specialty Sphere: Prime, Matter, and Life
- Song of the Ancients: Founded in the early 1980s to serve as a gathering place for Choristers who were from or studying tribal and other ancient religious beliefs, the Song of the Ancients is a loosely organized network of students and practitioners who are members of the Chorus. They include members of monotheistic tribal groups in Africa, members of Afro-Caribbean faiths and followers of ancient Celtic pagan-Christian synthesis beliefs. Although most such Choristers study the Sphere of Prime, a few mentors train their students to first study the Sphere of Life.
Specialty Sphere: Prime, Life
- St. Delius
- Giacomo of Padua
- Sister Bernadette
- Maria Vasquez
- Najjda Bantu
- Simon Pain
- Aiko Kawaguchi
- Jude Bankole Kuti
- Aline Levesque
- Govinder Singh
|The Council of Nine Mystic Traditions|
|Akashic Brotherhood · Celestial Chorus · Cult of Ecstasy · Dreamspeakers · Euthanatoi · Order of Hermes · Sons of Ether · Verbena · Virtual Adepts · Hollow Ones|