Etamui Religion: Transhumanism

Sects

Transhumanism is, at its core, the belief in and active work towards the potential of active transformation of humanity into something post-human. It is a nearly universal belief on Celestial Station––when one believes in anything at all, that is. However, there are several transhumanists sects that vary wildly in their practices and approaches:

  • Singularitarians (or Singularists), who believe we’ve already achieved the technological singularity and just don’t realize it or are in denial about it. They treat the neuralnet with all the respect and reverence of a deity, and treat computerized objects with the care one might show to a demigod or messenger of a deity. Programs are prayers. God is in the machine.
  • Matricists, who believe that we’ve already gone beyond humanity and uploaded our consciousnesses into the neuralnet. They claim to believe all our experiences are virtual, rather than actual, and life only has the consequences you allow it to have. They think that if you can truly understand that experience is an illusion, you can do anything at all and attain godlike power; to work towards this end, they engage in any number of activities to free their minds. Martial arts, drugs, trance-inducing neuralnet programs, meditation, and reckless activities to try to awaken their minds. Some matricists die of this enlightenment-hunting every cycle. (Supposedly, the matricist sect began as a joke. Some people still participate in it as a joke or recreation. Some certainly do seem to be true believers, though.)
  • Spiritualists, who believe that the spirit reflects the body, and the body reflects the spirit. They seek to modify their body to show what they feel their spirit looks like, or to influence what they want their spirit to be. If they can align body and spirit just right, they might achieve enlightenment, or empower themselves with supernatural abilities. Often their modifications make them look alien, inhuman, animalistic, or give them a deviant kind of beauty.
  • Shapeshifters, who strive to be more than a singular individual, using technology and modifications to “become” or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple perspectives. They believe every person is a multiplicity and in losing their individual selfhood, they can join with the collective consciousness of humanity. Ideally, this is a very serious philosophy and practice. In actuality, this is the domain of those privileged and wealthy enough to be able to take on new roles and afford the constant biomods needed to change their appearance and merge with another perspective every few cycles (though people with less access to such luxury can still engage with this through virtual reality, drugs, and neural programs). These are often SciDevs who engage in cultural tourism, “slumming it” with Glitches until that becomes uncomfortable or loses its appeal, and they declare they’ve learned what they were meant to learn from the experience before moving back to the Research and Development ring.
  • Uplifters, who believe that all sentient beings deserve to be sapient and have that sapience recognized. They advocate for enhancing animals and plants towards greater cognitive capacity, and also strive for increased self-awareness in artificial intelligence. For many, it’s because they feel humanity deserves to not be alone in the universe. For others, it’s that they believe many animals, plants, and/or artificial intelligences have already achieved sapience but it’s not respected or recognized sufficiently by humanity, and they want to join with other sapient beings in the pursuit of transcendence.

Basic Tenets

  • Seek perpetual growth and progress in all aspects of human existence, taking an active part in one’s own biological evolution. Mankind shall be the director of its own destiny.
  • Transcend the constraints of body, mind, and society.
  • Empower people with conscious choice over their lives, bodies, and deaths.
  • Knowledge, culture, and resources should be shared among the population for the betterment of humanity and swifter human evolution.

 

Basic Practices

These vary by sect.

  • The only one that exists across almost all transhumanists is that of modifications. Biological, genetic, and cybernetic modifications are ubiquitous aspects of transhumanism, viewed as ways to push the evolution of humanity or the self to the next stage of the species.
  • Spiritualists, Shapeshifters, and Matricists often engage in some form of meditation to increase self-awareness or seek enlightenment. Sometimes this is a sitting meditation focused on the breath; other times it’s with biochemical or virtual assistance to enter a trance state.
  • Singularitarians often engage in prayer and program-driven communication with the Superintelligence of the neuralnet. Some engage in divination by scrying the code of the neuralnet and claim to have received information from the Superintelligence through this practice.

Miscellany

What happens after death? This belief varies wildly by sect and individual. Many transhumanists believe there is nothing after death, only oblivion, and so this is part of their drive to seek to extend life indefinitely. Matricists believe (or claim to believe) that consciousness is uploaded into the neuralnet and lives on therein. Spiritualists and Shapeshifters often subscribe to the belief of some form of reincarnation or another. Uplifters and Singularitarians may have any number of beliefs about the afterlife.

Dream: To reach the next stage of humanity’s evolution, and the next after that. Pleasure and being free from suffering.

Nightmare: Stagnation. Suffering. Ignorance.

Light side, positive qualities: At its best, transhumanism encourages compassion for all living beings, egalitarianism, sharing of resources, helping the sick and poor, and universal care and education.

Dark side, negative qualities: At its worst, transhumanism becomes a rationale to take away the choice of individuals in order to enhance the greater good or the evolution of humanity as a whole.

Fanseeth: Religion

The Fanseeth’s religion is tied very much to the place and the people. It is tied heavily into the moons they inhabit and to the history of the Fanseeth. They also have a lot of rituals, usually administered by a lay-priest (someone who is a member of the population at large who has chosen to administer the rituals) but sometimes by people for whom that is their full profession. This collection of beliefs, rituals, and practices is called Vaettirveg by non-Fanseeth scholars, but for the Fanseeth, it’s just the way things are.

Every individual clade and moon will have their own specific regional spirits and structure. Everything is viewed to have a spirit, called a vaettir: every ship (skipvaettir), every station (starvaettir), every moon (tangvaettir), every mountain on that moon (landvaettir). Some of those vaettir are called Light or Dark, but in truth all of them are viewed to be entities with their own agendas, and none can be considered wholly good or wholly evil. Many are also thought to have both Light and Dark aspects: what they give in one hand, they take away in the other, for good or for ill.

Each clade or group will give offerings to the vaettir in their own way, with the most common offerings being of cool, clean water. They are most frequently offered to the vaettir—who then consumes the essence of the thing—and then consumed by the offering parties (assuming that the thing being offered is something that can be eaten), who partake of the physical essence of the thing. Nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.

Vaettir

Vaettir—no matter their aspects—should not be viewed as wholly light or wholly dark, but rather as beings of varying complexity with agendas of their own. They are often said to embody the spirit of whatever it is they represent, which may be very simple or very complex in its nature.

It isn’t entirely certain to any observer or practitioner whether the vaetter actually exist in a literal, tangible sense, but they are widely accepted to exist in some psychic or spiritual form, and rituals to honor and placate are deeply woven into the Fanseeth culture. For example:

  • Offerings and prayers are given before an expedition is undertaken and again when it comes to a conclusion.
  • Public ceremonies mark events of public importance (everything from elections to births) and also mark out the Fanseeth concept of a year, providing a shared community and continuity of culture.
  • It is generally viewed that the Vaettir will hear statements and may take them as a challenge, and so better to soothe things over with offerings (the way in United States culture we “knock on wood”).

Light and Dark

Light and Dark are important aspects to the Vaettir. A Light Vaettir embodies the principles of light, heat, and warmth. A Dark vaettir is associated with cold, darkness, and death. Most vaettir are categorized into one or the other, but some—especially greater vaettir (more on that in a moment)—may embody both principles in what are called “aspects.”

While in general life is associated with life and darkness with death, it is important to remember that heat can kill. Light can sear. Coolness and even death can be a blessing. To the Fanseeth, these are inherent traits rather than moral judgements.

While these forces work against each other and the Light vaettir tend to be more friendly to the survival of the Fanseeth people than the Dark vaettir, balance is always necessary and both aspects are necessary.

Ancestor Veneration

The Fanseeth do not practice ancestor veneration in the same way as, say, the Children of Earth do, and there is nothing in Fanseeth practice that would be considered in the same genre.

Pantheon

There are a few vaettir who could be thought of as deities to the Fanseeth. These can be thought of as the vaettir of concepts and are referred to as Greater Vaettir.

Some of the major and widely recognized ones are:

Kanshar, Lady of the Rulers

Lady of the Rulers. Guider of the Wardens. Protector of the People. She is considered to be a severe deity who is called upon in times of hard decisions. When survival is on the line and each decision may be life or death, she is frequently given offerings. She is also the one called upon in the election of a new Warden. Offerings are usually purified water and the meals eaten before decisions are made.

Her light and dark aspects are extreme, but she is generally portrayed as being between the light and the darkness.

Feix, Keeper of Spaces

Keeper of Spaces. Ey guard hearth and home, providing shelter and refuge for those who are accused or those who are hard on their luck. Ey watch over births and deaths and all familial or in-clade disputes. Ey also are said to protect the doors of the clades, keeping out unwelcome elements and influences. Eir domain also extends to sex, protecting children, and are said to love music and dance.

Ey are usually portrayed in their light aspect; eir dark aspect is about barricaded doors, protective shields, and keeping out undesireable elements. The dark aspect is usually only taught as part of an esoteric tradition that few practice.

Shenwa, Guide of the Dead

Ruler of the Passage, Devourer of Corpses. He takes as an offering the essence of bodies before they are reprocessed. Said to love the scent of tree resin, he is particularly drawn to the smell of myrrh. Also the Lord of the Outcasts, he ensures those who are lost to the community are not wasted and is called upon for guidance by those who have been outcast from their clade.

Usually portrayed in a dark aspect, his light aspect focuses on new growth from decay from the recycling of the physical body and its spirit.

Written by: David H. Clements