Week 43, 2019
El became a living exemplar of the faith, a flesh and blood narrative of what the people of the Empire hoped for.
His story sustained them, like food for the hungry and water to the thirsty.
The stages of his life symbolized what the faith of every citizen held to be true, what they were led to believe through the teaching of the Imperial Cult, and in its way, because of the hope he represented, he also perfectly articulated the fears of the ruling class.
His early life demonstrated how a person and a family could be caste down and caste out. As he transitioned from plebian to criminal, to outcaste and ultimately a rebel.
The story of those transitions took on the quality of an epic myth, characterizing the decent that everyone feared might be waiting for them and those they loved, the expectant judgement awaiting them in the timeless place before rebirth, if they did not fulfill their duties faithfully.
Even in his decent he demonstrated qualities of virtue and integrity that were supposed to be redemptive. The narrative of his life, which virtually every citizen in the empire was familiar with, was in a constant state of editing, of simplification and refinement for the purposes of propaganda.
People on a million worlds followed him, put their hopes in him, believed that he was a child of the God’s, of the Continuum, a divine being sent to live among them, a hero to share their pain, to lead them out of the worlds of suffering and chaos.
He was a demi-god, myths regarding his origins circulated among the people, carefully crafted by the Imperial Cult, for maximum exposure.
El’s life story became a new vehicle of control and exploitation.
During his long life whole generations had been born, and died adoring him, they set him on a pedestal, ignorant of the danger that they were merely preparing him for a mighty fall.
El participated with full devotion in the great charade of temple life.
He never let on that he did not believe in the things he studied or the things he taught, after all, he was the subject and the beneficiary of the greatest miracle that had ever been engineered in the living memory of the Empire.
He had returned from the dead.
The perception of holiness mattered more than the reality, his safety and security depended on it, but more importantly the safety of the woman he loved depended on it.
Every affectation of pietas was a charade, pageantry, performance art and deception.
This did not bother him.
The most important thing to the hierarchy is what people believed about the priesthood.
The rituals were like veils, they obscured reality but they were also translucent. If you practiced mindfulness you could peer through them, remove each veil, one by one, while advancing in knowledge.
Image was everything; rhetoric not logic, not truth, rhetoric was the measure of the day.
The truth, if it was known, would only harm people, confuse them, or so the priestly cast believed.
It would tear the Empire apart, El was sure of that.
Given the powers belonging to the priesthood, it was a relatively easy task to deceive the masses.
The priesthood controlled the Imperial Schools, and more importantly the cultic rituals that governed every moment of the day to day lives of the citizens.
The controls the priesthood exercised were not taught as vehicles of deception, but as a guided rituals, intended to slowly bring people to a place of sanctity. They were preparation for the next life and the world to come.
Everything was theater.
El was a grand performer.
He had an intuitive sense for the fact that he was being watched at every moment, filmed, studied, reviewed.
He did not think about it, and yet it never left his awareness.
In the rituals of the priesthood every gesture was important.
The complex movements of the customs and rituals reenacted a narrative and reinforced a story that encompassed the history of the Empire and its million worlds.
The rites fostered a sense of belonging in the people.
It was an incredible drama, the story of every planet was told, of every class, every victory and every crushing defeat.
The rise and fall of worlds was recounted in the liturgical cycle.
The glory of the Imperial house and the part each person played in the construction of that story was told and retold, both to terrify and to instruct, to delight in and give hope.
The group participation in those rituals, led by the priests, sent waves rippling through the lives of the faithful, binding them as by the successive movement of concentric rings.
El played his part flawlessly.
He became the singular focus of every nearly every person in the Empire, whispers began to take shape that he would lead the people to a new way of life.
El did nothing to counter those narratives. He himself wanted to believe it was true.
The imperial system was held together by class, rank and ancestry.
Only the outcaste was free from it, and while they were free from the oppressive weight of the conforming belief systems, they were absolutely without rights, without representation in government or standing before the courts.
Nearly every citizen clung to their place in the hierarchichal order with vicious determination.
They knew they were constantly under watch, scrutinized from the moment they stepped out the door of their dorm, their home or apartment, they were under constant observation.
Most of them suspected, but few of them knew the extent to which their private lives were monitored.
There was no privacy.
There were few limits to what a person would risk, merely to advance a step or two in rank.
Inasmuch as every person was inextricably bound to the system of rank, they also longed for a release from it.
They were conditioned to see release only through advancement, by forward motion, through reincarnation, and countless lifetimes of struggle.
Even death was not seen as a release, merely a transition to a new mode of suffering.
That is what the cult taught them, to always look ahead, to see themselves as one day filling the role of village chief, of captain, of high priest, of abba; to hope that they could advance so far that they and theirs would ultimately occupy the highest place of all, to ascend the steps of the curial throne and be welcomed into the Continuum, to merge with the divine Collective, find peace, to ultimately become the god of their own private world.
The immediate goals for the ordinary citizen were advancement, to climb above their neighbor, to move beyond their current station.
The realization of hope was perpetually on the other side of a great divide, it was tantalizing, ephemeral and just beyond their grasp,
Everyone believed that freedom was waiting for them. Independence was just a few paces away, if only they could have a perfect day for themselves, or engineer the failure of someone close to them.
This system pitted every person against their neighbor, children against their parents, workers against their supervisors, soldiers against their generals, and acolytes against their masters.
It pitted world against world.
The secret desire of every person was to live autonomously, free from the responsibilities of their station, or the pressure of seeking esteem from their families, peers, and colleagues.
The heavens were imagined as worlds beyond time and space where each person became a god, ruling with absolute power over a creation of their own, as dark or as light as their imagination would allow it to be.
Autonomy was an illusion, private property, self-direction, they were all lies. There was not a single point in the chain of being where a person was ever free.
What differentiated one world from another, one caste from its subordinate, was only the type of work that consumed them, and the relative degrees of comfort or luxury attending to it.
In truth, everything and everyone was fully socialized and owned by the state.
The Empire was absolute, holding power over every living thing, over life itself, even the lives of an entire world could be sacrificed in a moment at the whim of the Emperor, or for the malign purposes of the Continuum.
It was possible for an individual to be at peace in the Empire, millions of citizens were. Theirs was the peace and comfort of the acquiescent.
Acquiescence masked itself as transcendence, passivity as mindfulness, unquestioning as understanding, silence as self-realization, and acceptance as actualization.
People were conditioned to obey, they found satisfaction in it.
To be at peace in the Empire a person merely had to accept the view that their happiness was an integral part of the whole. An individual did not have a right to their own immediate and personal sense of joy. They had to look beyond themselves, to the wholeness of their family, to the security of their village, to the prestige of their world and beyond.
This was referred to as the globalist perspective, and it was normative.
The sound perspective, what was most helpful was to look beyond their immediate conditions of their lives, to look to the next life, to a series of a thousand lives, to the long-slow turning off the wheel of life.
The immediate present could not be changed, only accepted and accounted for.
Individual happiness did not matter, what mattered was the happiness of the whole.
It was a trick.
Most of the population of the empire had been bred to accept this, with those liabilities reinforced by their education in the Imperial Schools and their worship in the Imperial cult.
The citizens understood the reality of the Empire, a million worlds, stretched across the galaxy, but the vast majority would never leave the world they were born on.
Interstellar, travel was mainly the province of the soldier and priest, with the exception of the outcastes, who were likely to be gathered up and sent off world to the serves in the mining fields scattered throughout the Empire. They were the expendable labor force and they were used as such.
Nevertheless, the people held an image of the Royal worlds in their minds, hoping one day to go there, or be reborn there.
It functioned in their consciousness like a beacon, a light to guide them…a false hope.
Every person desired to see their lives as meaningful. Even those citizens whose station in life was fixed in drudgery. This cognitive impulse, to ascribe meaning onto even the most ordinary and mundane activities was instinctual, a genetic imperative.
The mode by which the individual person shaped the narrative of their experience was simple, it involved the projection of everything they did outward toward the universal, reshaping the context of even the simplest and most routine tasks.
This was a categorical imperative.
The Imperial cult ensured that every vestige of the religious rites that the people engaged in, every movement, every word they uttered, conditioned them to believe that individual fulfillment came through the great chain of being, through a series of incarnations, and re-incarnations in which each person experienced life at every station, rising or falling in rank according to the merits by which they lived out each one of their lives.
The journey of the individual entity was depicted in the sacred text like the revolution of a galaxy, billions of stars turning around a massive gravity well, the fixed singularity of a black hole.
It was a cosmic dance.
Planets and stars, turning around the center, until one by one, each was consumed by it, drawn to the point of no return, merging with it, passing across the event horizon, becoming one with the singularity itself.
This example, drawn from nature, was especially poignant to the people.
The common end which it proclaimed, the final calculus of all existence spoke of equal justice for all.
The singularity was depicted not as the end in itself, but as the entry point to another state of being, a gateway to another dimension.
The Continuum was depicted as analogous to this fixed point in nature, and it was a black hole, the material end of all things and that of the soul’s journey, both located in the same terminus.
Part Six, The Empire
Chapter Forty-one, Tradition
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
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