Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Symbols and Rituals of True Communion


Aniconism

True Communion believes that depictions of the supernatural, be they idols or symbols, tend to unduly distract one from his inner journey in understanding the world. One can hold onto an idol, put his faith in that idol, and forget that the physical thing he holds is an illusion, nothing worth having faith in. Moreover, once the divine is given a face, people begin to forget its cosmic qualities and begin to overly humanize it. Thus, True Communion often, though not universally, chooses to eschew any symbolism at all.

True Communion symbolism tends to focus on things that naturally guide on to right and proper conclusions. They tend to be known by their tools and their words, rather than their great idols or symbols. Thus, the temples of True Communion tend to be remarkable bare of baroque imagery, favoring instead creating a place of profound peace and introspection, a natural place where one can lose himself in his own introspection.

This is not a strict taboo, however. The Keleni traditionalists are more likely to eschew imagery than human/alien traditions, as Traditionalists believe that True Communion and Keleni culture go hand in hand. Alien traditions, especially human traditions, feel the need to differentiate themselves from others and humans especially, caught up in their empires and factions, feel the need to have some symbol of their faith that they can point to. Even more extreme versions, such as the cults inspired by True Communion found within the Divine Masks tradition, absolutely have idols, but arguably have fallen far from what True Communion stands for.



The World Triad

Some followers of True Communion, especially among humans, represent their faith with the World Triad. The three spirals represent either the three forms of Communion that flow into one another (traditionally True Communion on top, flowing into Broken Communion on the bottom, which flows into the unifying Dark Communion at the side) or the three paths or virtues of True Communion, with the Righteous Crusader triumphant at the top, the Bound Princess “kneeling” below, and the remote Exiled Master to the side, binding the two. In the latter case, they world triad might be colored blue, green and white. The circular nature of the world triad represents the unity of all within the bonds of True Communion.

LA

When asked what our ultimate purpose was, an ancient Keleni master once replied “La,” which is a Kelen relational that connects two words together, and roughly translates into “to be.” Some practitioners of True Communion have taking to intoning the word in a long, low voice to remind themselves of their purpose and to induce a deeper state of meditation, to “be” connected with the greatness of Communion. As such, some use the written kelen text of the word as a symbol of their faith, either as a single phrase, or the repeating characters in Kelen (for example, on their prayer beads)

The Tools of True Communion

Most symbols associated with True Communion aren’t symbols at all! Instead, they are tools for representing metaphors, or for assisting the practitioner on his quest of cosmic self-discovery.

Kelen

The language of the Keleni, Kelen, is an unusual language that replaces “verbs” with “relationals” that describe how things interconnect. In the Kelen language, things do not do, they are and they are in connection with other things. This frame of mind and way of thinking, according to True Communion, provides powerful insights into Communion and the true nature of reality. Typically, only Keleni practitioners really insist on using Kelen. Alien practitioners of True Communion have long since shifted to Common Galactic, as most of its practitioners speak it, but many temples still encourage students to study the language so they can better understand Kelen language and gain greater insights into communion.

Kelen Literature

True Communion has its roots in ancient holy texts. The most prominent and popular of these have been collected into Jathuna, the sacred book of the Keleni. These texts describe mythical imagery, spiritual truths and the history of the Keleni. This includes, among others:

  • The Forever Cycle (Jatewelre Janaren)
  • The Book of Grief (Nikan Anloral)
  • The Book of Exile (Nikan Anpera)


The core of True Communion philosophy, though, comes from other works, some of which act as commentary on the Jathuna, others simply discuss philosphical concepts outright. The most important of these philosophical treatises are a pair of books that combine together:

  • The Verses (Jaxisse Jilke)
  • Meditations (Antoli)

The first, the Verses, are a series of enigmatic aphorisms, offered without comment or context. Meditations details numerous small stories meant to expand upon the aphorisms and attempt to teach, through metaphor, a particular precept or belief; these stories, themselves, tend to be either condensed versions of the mythology outlined in the Jathuna, or attempts to explain precepts taught within that book. These books combine: a student reads Meditations and then understands the Verses, and then uses the smaller, more compact aphorisms of the Verses as reminders, pointers, to the lessons learned from Meditations.

Keleni traditionalists will often keep libraries of physical books, including the Jathuna and the commentaries. The Verses are much more popular with non-Keleni Communionists, who will often keep a copy of it (or similar works) on their personal datapad. It has become so popular, in fact, that many non-Keleni communionists have no knowledge of the original stories that the Verses refer to, and they attempt to determine for themselves what they mean.

Communion Path Symbolism

True Communion has unparalleled knowledge of the nature of Communion, including its paths. It believes that true mastery is gained not on a path, but in understanding the complete totality of Communion, but with that said, most people can and should walk a path at some point in their life. The philosophy makes liberal use of the colors, trappings and symbols of the paths, especially in relation to those who have destinies that align them with those paths.

Water

The Keleni are an amphibious race with a close relationship to water. They tend to use it and its natural flow often in their metaphors and in their places of worship. True Communion often uses pure water or a silver chalice with water in cleansing, healing, or initiation rituals, though this is more common in Annara than in non-Keleni True Communion.

Prayer Beads

Some True Communion practitioners will carry a rosary or prayer beads with them when they meditate. They will chant a particular mantra and then click a bead, not explicitly to keep count, but as a way of creating a lulling rhythm that helps to melt away the world. Such rosaries have become popular means of showing one’s faith, especially with a world triad hanging from such a rosary, or with the beads engraved with the kelen characters for “La.”

Memory Crystals

The Keleni, as natural telepaths, learned to craft crystals in which they could store their memories, thoughts and emotions. While a perfectly mundane technology to most Keleni, where they might store keepsake emotions (like how they felt after their first kiss or when they first held their newborn baby), many practitioners of True Communion will store moments of enlightenment or entire thought-chains that contain important knowledge of Communion. They usually store these in protective orbs that will unfold when telepathically commanded to open to allow someone to access the secrets within. Such memory crystals often form the bulk of the “material” in a True Communion library, especially during the old time of the original Templars.

Eloi Fragments

In places of extreme Communion Sanctity, the psionic resonance there can begin to crystalized into an Eloi, (or, in Kelen, an ankoreta). An Eloi can act as a powerful psionic lens; Kelen have the technology to harvest them and either use them directly, or break them up into Eloi fragments to power psi-blades, resonance staffs, or psi-boosters. Temples have specific constructions designed to focus the psionic energies of Communion to a single point, often housed in the center of a temple, it’s holiest point, where the crystal slowly accumulates, floating at the very heart of the temple.

Some archeologists speculate that the Keleni have been building these temples to facilitate the creation of Eloi long before they began to hold them in sacred regard. Today, most Keleni or True Communion temples hold their Eloi in such high regard that they will not harvest or break them up unless in dire need, or to construct the finest of psi-swords for a truly worthy hero.

The Force Sword and Resonance Staff

The Keleni long learned that they had to protect themselves. With the resonance staff, they learned the art of extending their psychic presence and connecting fundamentally with a psychic tool. The next step beyond this was their invention of the psi-sword, which eventually fused with the psionic force swords of the Templars of Communion. While not directly symbolic or meaningful for the faith of Communion, the image of a Keleni wanderer bearing a resonance staff, or a Knight of Communion bearing a psi-sword have become iconic for the faith.

The Temples of True Communion

Temples lie at the heart of True Communion. Masters might claim that they’re irrelevant except, but for the faithful lay person, they offer a place where the weak and suffering can go for solace, or where the student can go to learn at the feet of a master.

The purpose of a True Communion temple is to attempt to illustrate the path to enlightenment and the nature of the divine cosmic. All rest on ground with Very High True Communion sanctity. Each temple has a unique design. Most have a free, flowing structure that seems somewhat chaotic or organic to the uninitiated, but they tend to follow the natural contours of the land and may allow nature to mingle with their construction to create an even more harmonious atmosphere: vines may climb the walls of the temple, or the temple may be carved out of the stone of a cavern, or a river may cut directly through a temple. Some temples have fountains, whose water the faithful may believe can heal wounds, and whose pattering sounds may assist in meditation. Many temples have the words of their secret text carved onto the walls; as one winds through the unusual layout of the temple, the sacred words of True Communion may spill forth before you, so that your tour becomes a literal journey of enlightenment.

Temples also house Eloi gems at their heart. Their geomantic arrangement channels the psychic energies of Communion to a single point, creating a point deep within the temple of intense sanctity that crystalizes into material form. These most sacred point is typically only accessible to the High Priests of the temple.

Meditation

The devotees of Communion do not believe that they must pray to a distant god for relief, but that they must turn their mind and thoughts inward, to find the divine connection they have to their infinite cosmic deity, and to one another.

Meditation is generally done while kneeling or in a “lotus position,” with eyes closed. Meditation is preferably done in a holy place or in nature, but any private or undisturbed place will do. Masters of meditation will meditate in complete silence, but those less experienced might chant aphorisms from the Verses or the Mantra “La,” and once such a cycle is complete, may “count” the chant with the click of a prayer bead. Some practitioners, especially Templars, enter a meditative state through carefully practiced movements or katas. The slow, precise “practice” movements of a training templar is, in fact, a form of meditation.

Ordination

Those who wish to set aside the world and devote themselves to the practice of Communion may seek to become ordained as a monk or templar. This requires, first, finding a master who is willing to devote time to teaching a student all the ways of Communion. Once this has been done and the master believes the student has sufficient devotion and knowledge to begin life as a monk, he is brought before a council of elders, typically those who run a local temple, and if they find him worthy, he may join the temple.

To do so, he must first remove his old clothing, then take whatever oaths the masters requires of him, generally represented by the Disciplines of Faith that the practitioner will observe (generally Disciplines of Faith (Mysticism)). The intitiate is then ritually cleaned, either by dipping them into a font of water, or having a chalice of water poured over them, and then they are redressed in the robes of their new calling.

The Traditions of True Communion

True Communion, as a philosophy, is not especially prone to ritual. It concerns itself with an inward journey of spirituality that allows one to learn to silence the self and connect himself to the greater community around him. Thus True Communion demands no specific ceremonies. Even so, the communal nature of Communion encourages tradition and bonds across community and culture, and numerous traditional rituals have sprung up. These traditions often request the presence of a priest or monk of True Communion to enact a specific religious ritual. Most such spiritual leaders accept the request and assist their local communities in these traditions. This practice is far more common among the “Traditional Communion” of the Keleni than it is among the non-Keleni “True Communion” practitioners, who tend to separate themselves from their community.

Community Rituals

The intent of these rituals are to bring the community together and remind everyone of their belonging to a greater whole. As such, all such rituals take place before the community as a whole; they tend to be short affairs, after which most communities will celebrate with a party (such a party is not strictly religious, and so most monks will bow out). Such ceremonies include, but are not limited to:

The cleansing of a new born child with water, either dipping them into a temple font, in a natural body of water, or pouring water upon them from a chalice.

A marriage rite, which usually consists of a vow taken between both groom and bride with a witnessing priest, who then binds their hands together with a length of ribbon (typically white or violet).

A funerary rite, where the priest pronounces the virtues of the fallen, the community each voices their fondest memories of the deceased, and then the dead is either burned on a pyre or buried at sea.

Pilgrimage

The temples and holy places of True Communion hold within them the capacity to create great miracles that can heal the sick and restore the handicapped and bring enlightenment and peace to those who suffer. Thus, many followers of True Communion seek to visit a temple or holy site at least once in their life and the tradition of pilgrimage has arisen in True Communion. This is especially popular among non-Keleni practitioners, and the Crusades to free the Temple Worlds of the Keleni was part military exercise and part grand pilgrimage.

For most, a pilgrimage is just a matter of traveling to a temple, visiting with its priests and monks and perhaps meditating in a particularly spiritual point, such as near its central fountain, or at its highest peak. Pilgrims often make a donation to help support or maintain the temple, and some of the most popular temples become astonishingly wealthy from such donations. A common tradition for temples that find themselves hosts to many pilgrims, such as the temple in which the remains of Isa the Exile are kept, will offer pilgrims a single, simple memory crystal in which they can imbue their religious experience at the temple. They may then keep the memory crystal, so they can relive that moment of spiritual clarity or they may donate it back to the temple. Often, such temples have grand chambers in which thousands of memory crystals dangle from the ceiling, reflecting light and filling the chamber with a thousand memories of religious fervor.

Lineage

True Communion places great stock in family, and in family traditions. It also puts great weight upon the importance of master/student lineages. Most children can quote their lineages back several generations, as can most students quote their educational lineage. For the Keleni, this is a visceral thing, for they have a deep telepathic connection with their ancestors, and place great stock in the “clan” from which one comes. For all followers of True Communion, being a member of a lineage means belonging to something larger than yourself. One’s destiny and tradition is often inherited from your lineage: if your father was a great warrior, you likely will be as well, and if your teacher served as a great protector of the faithful, you will likely be as well. While followers of this tradition tend to pigeon-hole certain lineages, they try not to hold one lineage over another: one man may descend from kings and the other from commoners, but some of the greatest holy men came from common lines, as well as some of the greatest warriors: each lineage has its heroes and icons, just some are more globally famous than others.

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