The Cult of Ecstasy (also known as Sahajiya, a term derived from the Sanskrit word Sahaja which literally means spontaneous or natural) is a Tradition of mages and visionary seers who transcend boundaries and limitations through sacred experience.
To achieve that the Cult use things like drugs, music and sex, but they are just means to an end. The objective is to achieve a mental state that transcends the physical world, a trance that allows the mage to see beyond his normal experience and go outside all the lines that keep most people and mages penned in. Cultists take the word ecstasy in its original meaning: a sudden, intense rush of feeling that catapults the subject into an altered state. It does not have to be a pleasant feeling, but given a choice, most Cultists definitely prefer it that way. The Cult of Ecstasy breaks down barriers and self-imposed limitations to give people a rush of eye-opening experience.
The Ecstatic paradigm incorporates numerous various traditions from all over the globe that use ecstasy and out-of-body experiences for enlightenment.
The heartbeat of the world, Dhambia, The Serpent Road... It has many names, but the concept lies in the idea that creation has a heartbeat, a pulse that everyone can feel if they want to. All the emotions, passions and unconscious minds tap into this pulse, with the intellect blocking the perceptions, but also focusing them, being a perfect consciousness that sends the person above mere intellect and sensations, using both to achieve a communion with the Lakashim.
Achieving such a state means suspending time and being able to alter reality at a whim. The Ecstatic mage usually focuses to achieve that ideal whenever possible, with many paths being based on enhancing sensations past the normal human limits, as the Lakashim waits beyond all those boundaries.
Human consciousness remains blind to the cosmos, as the vastness of reality and creation would drive human beings crazy. To avoid that, humanity looks at the world and the things in it, giving them names and looking at them in a way that they choose to understand. What the Ecstatics want is to break such self-imposed boundaries and take a peek at the vast scope of creation as it really is, even if such a thing can burn their eyes forever. Most Ecstatics would choose to go blind and be able to take a peek at raw reality than to live the rest of their lives blindfolded.
Being able to catch a sight at the true face of reality gives to the Seers indescribable moments of exaltation, a bliss that stops time. This is what they call Ananda. That bliss makes them able to work magic by side-stepping reality and gives them an understanding and newfound respect to all aspects of creation. Ananda cannot be described, only felt, and most faiths and magics are just ways to capture this bliss. As most people are never able to catch more than a glimpse of it, they are driven into despair and fanaticism, creating war and conflict.
The vital force, brought by fusing passions and perceptions, is what allows the Ecstatic to get to a higher state and look behind the boundaries that blind human beings all the time. Everyone can feel this, but most of the time is only felt during times of extreme bliss or stress. Time feels slower and everything is much more alive. The Cult of Ecstasy mages are able to tune into that energy, to perform miracles, and to focus on any task.
The Daemon, the Muse. In a really Ecstatic manner, there is no common agreement as to what Avatars really are, but most agree on the obvious part, that they are an aspect of the mage that assist on the life's path. Some say it is the unconscious saying what the mage knows but does not want to hear, others think that they are future selves, spirit-totems, past-lives, demons, angels, platonic ideals or a wide range of other possibilities.
When a mage is able to advance to the highest reaches of the path of enlightenment, it is when she is supposed to be able to discard the mortal blindfold completely and achieve an state of everlasting Ananda, comprehending everything in creation in a single eternal heartbeat. This is Ascension a personal moment so there is not a single way to achieve it, so each individual has to find her own way to find it. Even so, many Cultists find this whole idea terrifying, preferring brief flashes of truth than a single endless pleasure, with the ideal Heaven being that where you can get a moment of short break from the mortal world and after that go back for another ride. To them, life is more interesting than an eternity of anything.
Tools and PracticesEdit
Many see the Cultists as little more than wanton hedonists, but the truth is their behavior is far more sophisticated than that. While it is true that many of them employ sex, drugs, music and dance in their magic, their true goal is indicated in their name: Ecstasy comes from the Latin ex stasis which actually means "out of stasis". The Ecstatics seek to transcend the illusions of reality and see the world without boundaries, where their collective consciousness spans all of space and time.
There are many kamamarga, or paths of ecstasy, tools and techniques to induce ecstatic awareness. Even if few Cultists stay in one for long, all of them have favorites. Some use tribal inspirations like tattoos, piercings or rites of ordeal to focus their magic. Others use advanced gadgets to stimulate their own bodies, turning music, video, virtual reality and cybernetics into wild new art forms. Tantric and Taoist arts, sexuality, mass pleasure rites, ritualized self-mutilation, fasting and extreme physical activities, ancient yogi disciplines, summoning of zeitgeists (spirits of an era)...there are many ways to perform magic, and Ecstatics are there to experiment with all of them. The best description is as follows:
|“||The Cult thrives in the eternal second at the height of an elegant dance, the shuddering sensitivity of total exhaustion, and the lateral thoughts of an opened mind.||”|
Sex excites the body and mind in unique ways, in a glimpse of the unknowable, a rush, communion and social activity in one. Sex is also sacred in the form of the union of the female and male forces of Shakti and Shakta, so it is more than simple procreation and also a form of worship. During sex, being willing or not, the ojas are summoned and power circulates through both bodies. Most Ecstatics consider non-consensual sex as something monstrous and unforgivable. No form of consensual sex is considered taboo by the Cult, and many of them are actually omnisexual, as simple orientations are just barriers to break. They usually divide sex into high sex, lovemaking and low sex. The first raises the ojas and channels energy from one to another in a ritualistic and disciplining fashion. Tantric magic comes as an obvious way to exemplify it. Lovemaking is the sharing of affection and energy between lovers or friends, more spontaneous than the first, it expresses pure emotion and it is usually made by mentors and pupils as the Diksham bond between both it is usually that affective. Low sex is just an outright sexual relationship without nothing else, done for the sake of pleasure, but it can be powerful as the other if done right, getting to see the Lakashim during the climax.
As their are powerful tools, many Ecstatic Initiates have a penchant for them, giving the Tradition some of their most common stereotypes. To Ecstatics they are not simple chemicals, they are tools to expand their minds and turn their perceptions inside-out. The danger of losing the sight of their way is there, so the trick us using them without becoming dependent on them and at some point growing beyond their usage and using kamamarga that does not need artificial chemicals to touch ecstasy. Cultists usually classify drugs into three categories, Running Toward, Running Away and Bad Shit. The first group are gateways to the unconscious, drugs that create energy and foster activity, bolstering courage or action. The second group are the ones that relax energy, turn one into the self and leads to inability to act. The third group are uncontrollable chemicals that cause dangerous side effects, just causing problems and not helping magic at all.
Music is one of the safest kamamarga, and even if slow offers an experience that no other focus can replicate if done correctly. Young Ecstatics consider that even if all music have potential, rock music brings a resonance only matched by primitive drumming. The most important point behind music is the passion, when there is caring and the artist is trying to say something with it, the music itself carries the power.
Being the Tradition that has taken the seat of Time, trying to describe their history in any sensible and continuous means is understandably difficult. Keep in mind that any Ecstatic that is asked the history of the Cult may, quite readily, laugh at the questioner. Some may take pity and attempt to explain a thing or two. Certain events can be pointed to, but fixing their exact location on the timeline is not necessarily even possible.
It is better to think of the Cult's history as a stone skipping across the waters of the timestreams and you have come to as close of an analogy as possible to the truth of it. Given that, some events and a timeline can be pointed out.
There were always people who felt the World's Heartbeat. Some were called shamans, others artists or madmen, but they were all the same. Some believe that the very first time that the human mind was able to grasp the Lakashim was when the primate ancestors ate hallucinogenic fungi and plants, so mystic insight and abstract reasoning were shown to them for the first time, but nobody really knows when it began. The few who continued down that path were masters of crazy wisdom and seekers of what other suppressed in their fear. The Vedas, the oldest texts of Sanskrit literature, would be compiled later becoming the basis of early Hindu thought, becoming the basis to the people who lived along the Indus River and in some way to the foundations of what would be the Cult of Ecstasy. Religions were born around passions, with gods who represented them. Aphrodite, Astarte, Dionysus, Freyja, Tlaloc, Ga-Oh, Shakti, Shiva...
Greece and RomeEdit
During Greece's classical age, the Dionysian tradition was inherited from Thrace and with it, wild festivals and revelry. They celebrated all the aspects of intoxicated insight, both in celebration and wrath, transcending their own mortality. Dionysus was a god of inspiration, one who brought joy and also roused anger, all while surpassing the limits of normal perception to include visions of ecstatic possibilities. One its the most infamous followers were the Maenads, an all-female cult that ended all their festivities with human sacrifice, while one of the most friendly were the Roman Bacchantes, witty artists and philosophers with inhuman tolerance to alcohol.
Aristotle, even if not Awakened, would be one of the proponents of the Cult's ideology in the Nicomachean Ethics, claiming that the greatest goal of all human being is to achieve happiness. A society of happiness is one who strives to realize their greatest potential, and that requires the same collective effort as any other societal benefit...not by the fleeting self-gratification of its citizens, but through sympathy with one's fellow citizens and personal sacrifice for the benefit of that society as a whole.
But finally repression arrived and in 186 BCE the Roman Senate, alarmed by the Bacchanalia, outlawed all lodges and play-houses of Bacchus (the Roman Dionysus), the communions and celebrations were ended and their followers were forced to flee or they were imprisoned. Separated, only a few were able to touch the Lakashim alone, and even them met with the government and were suppressed. But even outlawed, the festivals continued in secret along the Mediterranean, in the form of communities of storytellers that discussed fantasy and imagination in a serious manner.
At this point in time Mayans were not part of the Cult of Ecstasy, as the Cult had not existed yet, but they had their own Ecstatic practices. Priests offered blood, burned it and gave it to heaven for the rejoicing of their gods, entering in Ecstatic trances without the need of other substances and the Lakashim flowing freely through them. They looked into the future to gain good fortune for their people's sake, so it was ecstasy tempered with responsibility, with the priest being the sole sacrifice of the ceremonies.
It was a long time without actual organization for the Ecstatics. In Europe, the Roman Empire was dying, Christianity was spreading like fire and Ecstatics ideals survived in the theaters and philosophy even after the outlaw of the Bacchanalian rites. In America, the Aztecs subverted the previous ways and with their human sacrifices pushed other people against their wills into the position of the sacrifices.
In Asia, Buddhism rose along with other obscure cults in Hinduism, and around the 500 CE the Shakti cults were arising. Those were founded in the divine and feminine power of a mother goddess, and they would be integrated into mainstream Hinduism. A confrontation began between the followers of Buddhism and Hinduism, getting the first esoteric knowledge and support from western China and the latter getting a hold in the caste social structure. At the end, Buddhism became a mystery cult in the Hindu doctrine, but Muslims invaded India and with that the Buddhism mysticism fused with the Hindu theology to create Tantra as the Cult knows it today. With it, the Lakashim awakened again in the form of spirituality, sex rites, dance, worship, meditation, alchemy and mysticism. Muslims had little patience for the Tantric ways, given that they stood against a lot of foundations of their own beliefs, so they had a special animadversion against it but the region that held all the centuries of development of Buddhism and Hinduism resisted against them.
Sh'zar the SeerEdit
At the late Dark Ages, a conspiracy arose. It was one that denied ecstasy and other forms of mysticism, one that burned the Sanskrit writings of the Vedas and the Tantric alchemical recipes declaring all of them lies. It was the Order of Reason. A Seer saw the coming storm and his prophecy was clear, Magic would die unless all magicians banded under the same flag to counter this new threat. Nobody believed him at first, but soon they noticed their folly and understood the truth in his words. He was the one called Sh'zar, and he would be the founder of the Cult of Ecstasy Tradition under the name of the Seers of Chronos.
- Main article: Seers of Chronos
The Council of NineEdit
Sh'zar spoke to 23 Masters, explaining that the Order of Reason would cast a net over humanity's minds and they will turn it into a world of Reason. Three Divyas, his Initiates Akrites Salonikas, Tali Eos and Kalas Jnana, followed him on his journeys through eastern Europe and finally reached France, where he met Masters using his own mastery of Time. Three Masters listened, Nightshade, Valoran, and Baldric La Salle, bitter enemies who changed their own minds after hearing to what Sh'zar said them. By 1440, the foundations to the Council of Nine Mystic Traditions were ready. All of them traveled across the world to look for others of their kind, and Sh'zar knew he needed enough political power to force the Traditions to do the right thing, not mattering his own pride. His disciples found the Tantric Hindu and the Mayan Master Xiootan Iox among others. The second meeting was arranged, and after nine years of debate they finally founded the Council. Sh'zar melded all the different sects who knew the ecstasy into a single Tradition to stand along all the other who formed the new Council of Nine. Each Tradition needed a specialty, and Time was the most obvious for the Ecstatics, who were named the Seers of Chronos.
Sh'zar stayed as the representative of the Seers, while firmly believing that the abuse of power was a blasphemy to the Divine Gift of life, so he wanted to show that if people could just understand the miracle they lived in, they would live in harmony. He had an idea to the Seers, so after many debates he devised the Code of Ananda, a list of proverbs that illustrated the wisdom an Ecstatic should have and the responsibilities she should uphold. Sh'zar preached the Code with a real fervor, and his message of "do what you want, but never harm anyone" resounded not only across the Seers, but all the nine Traditions. They had their own freedom to explore their limits, but that was on their terms. They were to understand how what they do will impact other people and how they feel in that position. It was also when the Diksham, the mentor-student bond, was standardized. It was then when the Seers gained the respect of the other Traditions by the force of their personalities and arcane powers. Tali Eos bested knights, Akrites Salonikas debated with Christian priests and won, Xiootan Iox puzzled Hermetic magi with his astronomical knowledge... all while they also exemplified not the power-politics of other but a respect for their own Divinity.
The Great BetrayalEdit
In 1466, after the Council passed the Compact of Callias, the First Cabal was formed. It was a group of mages from different Traditions who represented the hope of the nascent Council of Nine in the Ascension War. Akrites was the representative of the Seers of Chronos in this Cabal. They initiated the March of the Nine with the goal to revitalize wonder and magic with the inspiration of the deeds against the clutches of the Order of Reason and other enemies like the Infernalists. But in 1470, they were betrayed by their own leader, Heylel Teomim bani Solificati, and some of the other members of the Council blamed Akrites for it, saying that his own friendship with Heylel made him to cover the Solificati even if he should have known what would happen given his abilities as a Seer. Even if he, Tali Eos and even Sh'zar himself went to rescue the captured members of the Cabal, the Seers of Chronos had a stain in their name. Akrites did nothing to defend himself, no one knows if it was for as really was not able to predict Heylel's betrayal or if he just did not do anything, and disappeared into the unknown. Sh'zar followed him and vanished. Xiootan Iox died about this time too.
The Nine Sacred Passions and the SahajiyaEdit
The other Divyas refused to let the Tradition collapse. Eos and Jnana struggled to continue Sh'zar dream. Eos would complete Sh'zar's work with The Nine Sacred Passions, a book who described the connection between soul, passion and Ascension, reinforcing the Nicomachean Ethics and the Code of Ananda. The Nine Sacred Passions that she did completed the Code, as unlike it, explained to the Seers not only what not to do but what they should do.
It was during this time when Europe went crazy with religious wars, inquisitions, reformations and persecutions of all kinds, all while the Order of Reason fanned the flames of it for a while. Mages went underground, and the Seers of Chronos renamed themselves as the Sahajiya and most of them fled to India and the Middle East to avoid these conflicts. They choose this places because their strong roots with that lands and the other Traditions claiming Europe for them. The ones who remained in Europe where wanderers and considered mad beggars. In the Council, the Code of Ananda struggled to be considered an official protocol. Eos died in 1562, and Jnana's second son, Siddhu Asva, fought against the Aghoris, who were behind a plot to eliminate the Code as they thought there should be no limits in ecstasy. Siddhu defeated the greatest Divya of the Aghoris in a certamen, so they ceased their intents in 1573.
Age of ReasonEdit
Centuries of religious warfare were followed by centuries of colonialism and revolution, and the Council of Nine was shaken during all of it. Colonialism brought the loss of many allies within the Dreamspeakers ranks, and as Enlightenment spread across the world, the colonial powers encroached the Sahajiya with strongholds in India and the Americas and the Ecstatics counterattacked. The ideals of the Victorian Era did not help either, as their strict moral stood against the ecstatic ways.
The Cult of BacchusEdit
In India, the Kali cults known as the Kalika Rajas violently fought against the British powers with assassination, madness, plagues and uprisings. The Sahajiya became a real terror to the Technocratic Union, destroying everything important before they could finish it up. These Kalika Rajas were disbanded in the 1840s, but supposedly still survive today in some form. In America, the Sahajiya ferociously fought against settlers, even using magic to cause whole cavalry units to disappear. Meanwhile in Europe, Hellfire Clubs made its entrance and Romantic poets showed their disillusionment. The Tradition fell in debauchery and indulgence, and it was renamed as the Cult of Bacchus.
This sudden shift into violence after centuries of borderline pacifism made many mages in the Council to grow worried, so the Divyas in Horizon called a meeting in 1867 to discuss the problem. This brought infighting, over 150 Ecstatics came to the Council discuss the matter, with the older mages accusing the new mages of shattering Sh'zar dream by turning into a group of self-serving revolutionaries that caused conflict wherever they went and the newer ones calling the Divyas in their cowardice, saying that ecstasy was never supposed to be kind. That was when a miracle happened, and in a cloud of hashish Sh'zar suddenly appeared, making clear he was a Master of Time. Even if he did not understood the times, he definitely knew the problem. He spoke for hours, reminded his descendants that the highest passion was supposed to be Joy and not Hate and poured the accumulated misery of all the victims of the renegades onto the crowd just for them to understand. He explained the that the cult was now a tool of vengeance and not enlightenment, and their mission was to bring ecstasy to the people, to heal humanity and not just indulge in sensations and anger. He knew that the way the Cult was headed was only to end in the Cult own destruction, that instead of spread passion among people they were just fighting over national interests and propaganda. Like the Maenads of old, the Cult of Bacchus lacked vision, was violent and devoured others who could have been inspired. In other words, the Cult of Bacchus was devoted to self-gratification and orgies of violence, so Sh'zar final decision was to change its name to Cult of Ecstasy, one who would be devoted to exploration and breaking personal boundaries of enlightenment and passion. The Tradition as a whole embraced again the Code of Ananda, and Sh'zar vanished as he appeared. Nobody knows what happened with him, maybe he jumped into a future crisis or maybe he is still floating in the realms of time, adjusting things here and there across history.
By the time the Cult changed from Bacchus to Ecstasy, an increase in standard living builded up. This meant wages and free time, the chance to discover different things. At last, people were not bonded to an specific work or social class. It was also the birth of the electricity era. Radio, television, trains, automobiles, planes... News wired across the world in seconds, and new ideas flooded along with different experiences and experimentations. Humanity had a chance to grasp its own destiny, but there was a dark side to all of it too, and the Cult had to clean a lot of screw ups that people did.
The World WarsEdit
World War I meant misery and death, but also rebellion. It almost caught the Cult by surprise even with their mastery of Time, and some probably not even wanted to believe that such a thing could happen. The following '20s and '30s roared with excesses and extremes. War and Prohibition supposed kind of a crisis for the Cult, who did not know how it was supposed to fight human suffering in such a situation and saw how the fear of the authorities to people making their own lifes meant strict rules to be followed without exceptions. It was a backlash against the changing times, and that was met with another backlash with normal people falling into violence the same way the Cult had a century earlier. Even if finally society was able to exit from that downwards cycle of crime and repression, they found the result in the Depression, brought by the failure in social experimentations like enormous governments, stock markets and corporations. That really scared the Cult, as it really seemed as if society was doomed to a travel of self-destruction... the perfect Nephandi's playground. And then the World War II erupted.
The Technocracy trying new and lethal weapons all the time, the Traditions and the Union divided into what side in the war they should align, the Nephandi being the ones behind the hand pulling the strings... If something was was averted total disaster, was how the Council of Nine and the Technocratic Union were able to came together against all of it and stop the whole thing, probably afraid of the unavoidable end result if things followed the same path.
The Fifties and the SixtiesEdit
That was followed by the '50s and the '60s, and the cult knew that they had to counter the Technocratic model, they had to be the bringers of social change and become involved in the society and culture of the whole world, working with the new situation left by the World Wars. Coffee shops, civil rights, decolonization, electric guitars, new ideas... It began a revolution of the senses, and even if the Cult was not behind of all of it at all it was truly its heyday. The Ecstatics only showed the way, the people followed. The world was turned around into something different, a place where you can live differently.
The End of the CenturyEdit
But the following decades was like a big bucket of ice water in the Ecstatics' faces. There was not Awakening, the movement did not last and nobody controlled it or was prepared to it. The Summer of Love ended and with it the party, and it was the cleaning time now. Some Cultists refused to let it go, but soon the consumer culture and the corporate power decades of the '70s and the '80s reminded the Ecstatics about some things they believed to be buried. Social conservatism, systematic crackdown on human rights... The '90s and the '00s were like awakening from a long dream, and the dreamer was really angry at seeing how everything really was.
In the New Horizon Council of Mark Hallward Gillan celebrated in Los Angeles in 2001, the Cult of Ecstasy representative was the Joybringer Lee Ann Milner, who even if was the least skilled mage in this group her sincerity and open-mindedness made her an important part of the new Council.
The Tradition reacted to the Rogue Council missives by holding a gathering to discuss about the new situation and re-emergence of the Ascension War, but even if they did it in depth, they came to no conclusions on it, even if they produced a list of possible explanations for the whole situation.
The view from outside the Cult is that life is one never-ending party. For some younger Ecstatics, this might be true, as they drunkenly lurch from one debauchery to the next, trying to find enlightenment. Most of the Ecstatics know that most things are best sampled in moderation, lest their passions become blunted and thus ruined for them – although a Cultist's idea of "moderation" might be quite different to the average person's.
If you look beneath the stereotyping, the Cult itself is filled with contradictions and controversy even among its members. Most of whom seem to quite enjoy the lively and passionate debate. Even things passed down through the ages are often debated. One such is the Code of Ananda, upheld by some and outright rejected by others. These guidelines act to protect Cultists from their passions and each other, but are not accepted by all Ecstatics. A second is a book written by Tali Eos called the Nine Sacred Passions, which is less in itself debated, but more the approach to pursuing passions.
It truly is that the only constant there lies within the Cult is the constant of Change. Although there is a persisting belief that Lakashim (synonymous with "Life") is holy.
There are, however, some individuals who care little for the lives of Sleepers and quite happily sate their lust for perversion, rape, murder or worse on those around them. Such individuals are severely punished by the Cult, and are even considered and dealt as if they were barabbi – if they can be caught. William Ethrac is one such notorious individual who has so far eluded all attempts at capture.
Cultists employ their methods in pursuit of passions and emotions, often the Nine Sacred Passions, knowing that only passion can take them high enough to surpass human boundaries and perceptions to reach the eternal moment. Some are more enlightened than others as to the true purpose and source of emotion, but the pursuit is the same.
The Ecstatics have a set of guidelines, known as the Code of Ananda, that has been passed down from the Cult's founding organizer. The Code's purpose is to protect Ecstatics and others from misapplication of their passions. Central to the Code are rules forbidding the forcing of your passion or experiences on another (such as swapping the mushrooms in your friend's pasta with hallucinogenic mushrooms), as the Cult believes each person must want to find their own kammamarga ("Path to Enlightenment"). Ananda is a Sanskrit word which means "bliss", and the use of such Indic terminology among Ecstatics is one of many examples showing the mutually formative influence between the Cult of Ecstasy and the culture of India. In India the Ecstatics' central philosophy has been known for hundreds of years as Sahaja, which is a Sanskrit word meaning "[passionate] nature". From this comes the descriptor for one who subscribes to the Cult's central philosophy, sahajiya, which translates as "follower of [passionate] nature".
Code of AnandaEdit
Called by some people The Ten Commandments of Ecstasy, they are a set of proverbs devised by Sh'zar and generally agreed to be a set of guidelines to be followed, something needed within a chaotic organization like the Cult. The main point of the Code is both Ananda (bliss) and righteousness. During the first days of the Cult, Sh'zar punished personally the ones who broke the Code, as he knew that a certain level of responsibilities were needed for the Cult to not become a shadow of themselves. The Code is all about respect for others, consequence and wonder. A good Ecstatic is who never makes his own joy the problem of others.
The Code is teach by most of the Tradition Chantries, and it is expected for their members to adhere to it. It is not really a law, it is more a declaration of ethics. There are fierce and extreme groups who reject the Code, like the Aghoris, the Hagalaz or the Acharne.
Nine Sacred PassionsEdit
"Feelings are not good or bad, they just are." That fits what the Ecstatic stance is about. All emotions have a positive and a negative, and the only thing that is really bad is the lack of passion. Emotions are a link to Divinity. As they know what damage can cause uncontrolled emotions, they believe in self-discipline embodied in the Code of Ananda. Feelings are not inherently bad, it is what you do with them.
In her book of the same name, Tali Eos defined Nine Sacred Passions that she felt lie at the root of all other emotions. These are: Joy (or Wonder); Love; Empathy (or Sympathy); Lust (or Ambition); Grief (or Sadness); Fear; Jealousy (or Envy); Hate; and Rage. The concept was not new, but her book defined their meaning in Ecstatic lore. To Eos, each passion has a constructive and destructive side. Joy can blind you as you stumble over a cliff, while Envy can drive you to achieve something that you might not have bothered with otherwise. Even Hate is necessary, as some enemies deserve it. Eos' list has never been considered infallible; Cultists have debated her concepts since the founding of their Tradition. Still, most mentors pass the idea on to their students. Although the Cult believes in breaking down barriers, it helps to know where those limits are before setting out.
The best asset of the Cult of Ecstasy is its flexibility. As they understand that no boundary is permanent, they are able to see that there are always new ways to achieve goals and new ways to live their lives. This means that structure is thrown away in exchange of rebellion and creativeness. The closest the Cult comes to a formal structure lies in its Code of Ananda, the proverbs of bliss that teach joy, compassion, sacred emotion and respect for others' passions in a sort of ethical guide that encourages each Cultist to embrace the differences of others.
This is why, unsurprisingly, the Tradition has little real structure. They do not see the need for a hierarchy or organization, and they work together if just because they like to be with other people. If a problem between various Cultists arise, it is solved by consensus during one of their meetings. Chantry houses tend to resemble community hangouts, jam-session rooms or fraternity houses more than magical workplaces, and they are often inhabited by several Cultists and a handful of Sleepers.
The most similar thing to a formal relationship between people inside the Cult is what they call the Diksham, the bond between mentor and student. It is pretty common that their relationship get to the point of lovers, as it represents a bond between two persons to be like if they are just one. The student learn to be smart enough to not be pray of the Paradox or other dangers, and even if she is supposed to respect her mentor, there is no obligation to service and it is the initiate who wants to learn. The mentor duties are to be the guide to Enlightenment and to make sure the student understand her new position.
Sects and FactionsEdit
As not all Cultists are loners, many of them gather in Sects. Plenty of them are even previous to Sh'zar, and one can recognize a member thanks to their purposes, distinctive marks, tattoos, or oaths. Sects are more common in countries with a lot of tradition, folklore and long history, but they are pretty much present everywhere.
There are too many Ecstatic sects and cults across the world, most of them just composed by Sleepers who want to experience the Divine Pulse, but there are others who have direct ties with the Cult of Ecstasy and conform its rather loose ranks. These sects have particular initiations, rites and goals, and many of them use secret languages and codes to maintain their own secrecy.
The historical factions are, simply put, those factions that pre-date Sh'zar and the establishment of the Code of Ananda. These factions have very stable, ancient, and ritualized styles. Although they exhibit some measure of innovation, for the most part the ways of the Historical Factions are set in stone. Whether through Taoism, Greek indulgence, or Voudoun faith, the Historical Factions gain their strength by standing on the shoulders of those who have come before. These tend to be among the most "serious" Cultists, who actually understand their place in history, and how ecstasy has long been considered a path to enlightenment.
- Erzuli Jingo: Primarily female Vodounistas aligned with the Cult of Ecstasy from the days of their African forebears. These mages practice Voudoun faith and devote themselves to healing the minds of others by clearing their dreams with the help of their Loa, Madame Ezuli. Their magic involves astral travel and spirit channeling, and occasionally curses and other sorts of black magic. The Jingo call their arts with ecstatic dance, frenzied religious experiences, and fire. Since the Jingo have lost much of their power lately, younger members have taken that loss out on others.
Specialty Sphere: Spirit, Life
- Fellowship of Pan: Inheritors of the legacy of the Cults of Dionysus, these Ecstatics believe that a human must embrace their primal nature in order to find Ecstasy. They believe mankind is at its purest when in the grip of its unconsciousness, such as when drunk or making love or art, and tries to capture and harmonize with this unconscious beat. They excel at healing, soothing minds, and inspiration. The Fellowship is rather loosely organized and for an Ecstatic Faction that's saying a lot. Currently their membership has boomed with the addition of Maenads and the Astartites.
Specialty Sphere: Life, Mind
- Kiss of Astarte: A modern pagan sect with a Dianic foundation. Many of these are lesbians, and some even have ties with the Black Furies. Their rituals focus into healing, rejuvenation and retribution. They have some similarities with some Verbena, but their rites are Ecstatic both in form and content.
Specialty Sphere: Spirit
- Maenads: A fierce and violent lot, even with their impressive and old legacy, the modern female followers of Dionysus have learnt to be more subtle and discreet than their ancestors. Still, every full moon they reunite to dance, revel and scream under the night, and even if some of them try to direct their rage killings into deserving targets, that is still quite subjective and many members fall into Jhor or Madness. For this very reason, there is a growing movement inside the Tradition to have the sect declared as barabbi.
Specialty Sphere: Mind, Life
- Kiss of Astarte: A modern pagan sect with a Dianic foundation. Many of these are lesbians, and some even have ties with the Black Furies. Their rituals focus into healing, rejuvenation and retribution. They have some similarities with some Verbena, but their rites are Ecstatic both in form and content.
- K'an Lu: Taoist ecstatics dedicated to perfecting the self. The K'an Lu seek to perfect themselves, they aren't seeking to heal people or moving others towards enlightenment. They follow a decent portion of the Code of Ananda, but they seek to Ascend and free themselves from the Karmic cycle. They work to untie the Yin and the Yang principles within themselves to perfection. Few Cultist could stand the rigid structure of the K'an Lu's practice, though a few of their Taoist beliefs have made their way to the Western World. The Faction seems to be dying out and they are hunted relentlessly in their homeland of China by the government. Even so, they are considered one of the greatest masters within the Cult.
Specialty Sphere: Time, Prime, Mind
- Vratyas: Nepalese ecstatics who practice the deepest secrets of Tantric magic and live in seclusion. They militantly defend their ways from outsiders, including other Cultists. It is said that Sh'zar learned from the Vratyas, and that they possess a love for humanity as great as the Joybringers and a willingness to destroy as great as the Euthanatoi. They are taught from birth (and with magic even from conception) the secrets of the human body and how to unlock its utmost potential.
Specialty Sphere: Life, Mind, Prime, Spirit
Dissidents Against AnandaEdit
These factions stand in active defiance of the Code of Ananda. The Code is based on a belief that the world is fundamentally good, and that an Ecstatic must not harm others, beliefs in which the Dissidents find numerous paradoxes. They do not really reject the Cult of Ecstasy; the Cult's philosophy is based on surpassing what came before, and the Dissidents believe they know how to improve the Cult for the future. The Dissidents can be violent, passionate, and wild, and also very dangerous to themselves and others. They are considered by the rest of the Cult a necessary evil, as even being shunned by the others they show a fierce loyalty to the Tradition.
- Aghoris: The oldest of the Dissident factions, descendants of the Shakti Cults outside of Bengal. They were some of the first to join with Sh'zar in an alliance. They believe in the philosophy of total self-destruction, to shatter all illusions of karma by destroying the biggest falsehood of all: "the Self". Unfortunately, since they believe all life is united as one, the Aghoris harm others as readily as themselves. They use Tantra, blood loss, human ash, flagellation, castration, whirling and physical exhaustion. The Aghoris live in rural areas near places of death, and often have strict or strange eating habits.
- Acharne: An all-male sect that practices Ecstasy through psychological and physical torment. The Acharne seek to perfect their will by beating it into submission. They focus on mental suffering and physical mutilation. Originally stoic societies in Greece, the Acharne drifted to Britain and America, giving rise to the "Hellfire Clubs". This mystery cult torments its initiates through all manner of suffering and losses. Once inducted, they drink the blood of their cabalmates and form powerful bonds. Torture and suffering are favorite foci, though blood-drinking, hard-core drugs, and Greek symbols are also used.
Specialty Sphere: Mind
- Hagalaz: Norse pagans who adhere fiercely to the old beliefs, the Hagalaz wage war on modernity and Christianity. Named after the rune of change, they live in a perpetual state of change and chaos, forcing the world to see everything from a new perspective. They believe the old Norse culture was better in every way, more flexible, fairer and productive. The Hagalaz seek to overthrow the practice and Christian morals, and challenge modern society through frenzied magical practices based on ancient Norse gods. The Hagalaz keep close to heavy-metal subcultures, which share some of their core beliefs. As during the '70s they opened their ranks to all kind of thugs, misanthropes and neo-nazis, now they are almost in a state of civil war between the more traditional Spae-crafters and the new viking wannabes and anti-christian fanatics, with the Tradition considering the latter borderline barabbi, to the point they have been declared outlaws by the more traditional Hagalaz.
- Freyji: Worshiping this female deity who was wife of Odin, these Hagalaz turn to her to call down curses, reveal the future, and improve fertility rites.
- Sons of Wotan: Necromantic berserkers said to be able to continue fighting even while headless. They throw themselves near-suicidally against enemies like the Technocracy, believing that only the valorous will make it to Valhalla.
- Sutr: As Loki priests, the Sutr use rune-carving and traps to defeat their enemies. Tricksters and fire-bringers, the Sutr learn how to dip into Marauder-like Arts to summon ancient Bygones to fight for them.
These factions bring the Cult into the modern age, innovating old philosophies into modern tools and new subcultures. However, in embracing the pleasures of the present, many of these factions throw themselves headlong into addiction. The Progressivists are growing in numbers, certainly, but many wonder if a bunch of stoned teenagers or ravers are really helping the cause of Ecstasy. Nevertheless, the Progressivists are pursuing their Kamamarga everywhere, whether through parties, raves, anarchistic revolts, or philosophy.
- Joybringers: Percentage-wise, the largest faction of the Cult of Ecstasy. Joybringers are what most think of when they conceptualize the "stereotypical ecstatic." The Joybringers seek to teach others the simple pleasure of existence. They believe that mankind is inherently good. By medicating humanity in pure bliss, the Joybringers feel that they can achieve peace and eventually Ascend. The Joybringers help humanity on many fronts, such as combating AIDS and homelessness. Indulging in drugs, sex, and simplified Tantra, the Joybringers appeal especially to the youngest generations of Ecstatics, but its members are the most vulnerable to addiction.
- Dissonance Society: While they share many beliefs with the Joybringers, instead of a peaceful accord this sect wants to overthrow society and start again new. They are anarchists and philosophers, debaters and terrorists. The Dissonancers use practical foci, such as psychology, double speak, probability, violence, herbalism, and mass protest. They are part anarchist, part philosopher and despite their image they are first those than warriors. Even with their differences, they agree on one thing, and that is that it is time for a change. When they cannot get their goals peacefully they are not above beatings and riots to get their points across but their activities are not all physically violent. More than one corporation has found their bank accounts empty and their computers databases wiped.
- Klubwerks: The youngest Ecstatic sect who seek to unite humanity via total abandon through music. Like the Fellowship of Pan, the Klubwerkers seek to unite with the underlying, subconscious beat of humanity. However, they use very different methods. They seek to unite mankind under the auspice of total abandon through music. Their shows are not just performances: they are rhythms that unite the audiences into a single communal entity, and even the musicians are caught up into the beat. Hundreds of people can be swayed under the Klubwerker's influence and powerful effects yet coincidental effects can be created.
Cultists are activists, taking people to their boundaries and beyond. Some Cultists see the act of cultural rebellion as more important than the quest for personal perfection. These Factions tend to uphold the Code of Ananda strongly, ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to find their ecstasy, and nobody is oppressed. This Faction contains the most "socially acceptable" groups of the Cult, whether they be protecting children, trying to clean up the Cult’s public image, or discussing religion and philosophy.
- Children's Crusade: This group's political agenda is simple: the protection of children. While the Cult dives into drugs and sexual bliss, they strongly oppose subjecting children to these things. Kids are not mature enough to get anything out of it, quite frankly, and they suffer emotional scars or worse as a result. The crusaders fight to stamp out child slavery and prostitution; even the Technocracy turns a blind eye to the crusaders, which has allies in almost every Tradition.
- Cult of Acceptance: This political movement attempts to "clean up" the Ecstatics' image by pushing for social change. Legalization of marijuana, decriminalizing some sexual acts, education about consensual S&M, and even opening art or dance schools all fall under the Cult of Acceptance's aim. They hope to offer new possibilities to the masses and that people will get over their social stigmas and open their minds to new practices.
- Silver Bridges: The Silver Bridges seek to "bridge the gulf" between religion and ecstasy. While Hindu Tantra works as a fine focus, most religions have a hard time swallowing the Cult's practices. To counter hyper-conservative factions of Christianity and Islam, the Silver Bridge recruit allies among these religions' "fringe practitioners" such as flagellate Christians and Sufi Muslims. They hope to bust apart the orthodoxy and remove the stumbling block of conservatism, so religions will evolve to accept new forms of expression and enlightenment.
- Fifth World Tribe: Los Sabios Locos: This sect incorporates Native American shamanism, hippie anarchism and powerful music into a gestalt that could shake the roots of the modern world. In time, they hope to bring it down and replace it with a cleaner, spirit-oriented culture. These Ecstatics have friends among the Changing Breeds in general and the Garou, Corax, and Nuwisha in particular. Its members go off on frequent vision quests across mountains, deserts and beaches.
- Khlysty Flagellants: This Russian Christian Orthodox sect believe that in order to be forgiven one must sin. After indulging in forbidden pleasures, they punish themselves with ritual penance, being by flogging, fasting or exposure to the elements as a way to achieve ecstasy. They are known by their extreme stamina, longevity and resistance to pain.
- Bongo's Rangers: A Discordian sect based on the unraveling of consciousness and the use of high-tech and magic to overload all kinds of stimulation. They believe that to reach the Lakashim, one must divert the stream of consciousness in unexpected ways, so they stage raves, drugs and endless stimulation to Sleepers in order to undermine society and speak gibberish that most of them don't even understand. Incoherence is the main point of this sect.
- Dervish: Sufi mystics who seek spiritual enlightenment through poverty and religious study under Masters. They dislike organization outside the master-student relation and they usually left politics to the Batini. Their magic is subtle, music, dance and poetry as common foci. Sometimes they use hashish and opium to get prophetic visions.
- Confrérie de Chango: One of the several small sects based on Voudoun like the Erzuli Jingo, all of them using dance, drinking and sexual practices to achieve the divine. The Confrérie de Chango is a militant brotherhood known for their powerful fire and lightning magic.
- Roda do Jogo: Another sect of Voudounistas, these ones are Brazilian martial artists who are versed in fighting to the point it is said they even compare to the Akashic Brotherhood.
- Los Sangradores: Descendants of Xiootan Iox and other Mayan priests, a secret cult in Central America. They achieve ecstasy through blood loss, piercing their bodies, usually their tongues or genitals. That blood represent a sacrifice to the gods, allowing them to touch the spiritual world. Other rituals for more potent magics involve piercing body parts with thick coils of rope followed by a frenzied dance that scatters their blood through the air.
- Studiosi: The Zealous Ones. Influenced by flagellants movements in Italy and Germany after the Albigensian Crusade, the Studiosi reject not only the illusion of the material world but seek to destroy their prisons of flesh, believing that the physical world is just a distraction to find Gnosis. They usually wear hair shirts, mutilate, burn and whip themselves bloody, and even get to extremes of castration or circumcision. They also consider the Technocracy as the new servants of Rex Mundi, the demon king of the material world.
- Umilyenye: Russian Christian Orthodox Ecstatics who seek visions through an state of raw emotion and religious ecstasy brought by the vision of religious iconography and holy symbols.
- Akrites Salonikas
- Tali Eos
- Kalas Jnana
- Xiootan Iox
- Siddhu Asva
- Aleister Crowley
- Isadora Duncan
- Jim Morrison
- Marianna of Balador
- Lee Ann Milner
- William Ethrac
- Rebecca Moreau
- Andrew Titus
In Mage: The Ascension First Edition, the Cult of Ecstasy was a rather undeveloped concept and in some ways nothing more than the stereotype usually ascribed to this Tradition. All their members relied on some kind of vice to perform magic and overall represented a bunch of undisciplined youngsters that only pursued pleasure as a way of self-gratification devoid of any kind of goals.
As the line advanced, this portray changed and like with all the other Traditions, the Cult of Ecstasy became a lot more diverse. Mage: The Ascension Second Edition, Mage: The Ascension Revised Edition, Cult of Ecstasy Tradition Book, and Tradition Book: Cult of Ecstasy helped to cement this new approach to the Tradition, making them more responsible of their own actions and in search of Transcendence and the higher self by surpassing all barriers.
|Mage: The Ascension Traditions|
|Akashic Brotherhood · Celestial Chorus · Cult of Ecstasy · Dreamspeakers · Euthanatoi · Order of Hermes · Sons of Ether · Verbena · Virtual Adepts · Hollow Ones|