VI. Religion and the Afterlife

``If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke - Aye, and what then?''
       - Coleridge, Anima Poetae

Religion on Oneiros is focussed more on concepts than gods. Thus, before discussing specific religious orders, one should look at general ideas which run through several religions.

  1. The Divinity of Man
    There is almost no belief in a soul separate from the body. In even the simplest philosophies, physical objects are formed of the same basic substance as ideas. Thus, memories and personality are an integral part of the body, and vice-versa.

    However, it is also held that sentient beings (i.e. those that dream) participate in the overall conciousness of Existance. In other words, all beings have a spark of divinity from which intuition and new ideas spring. It is in this that most agree that an afterlife seems possible. The question is how.

  2. Dreams and the Land Beyond
    It is commonly believed that people's dreams are indications of real actions carried out on some higher plane. Since there is no distinction of physical and intellectual, it stands to reason that there must be some place in which these dreams are carried out.

    Beyond this there is little agreement. Some hold that the mortal dreamers are the prime actors in this plane, others hold that mortal dreams are simply dim observation of actions that take place there.

  3. The Celestial and Infernal
    The sky in Oneiros is associated with civilization and law, inhabited figuratively or literally by celestial spirits. These spirits are the personifications of the rational order imposed by the Sun and stars.

    Beneath the Earth, there is an Underworld inhabited by daemons, who run wild on sheer instinct. They are considered easier to bring manifest on Earth by personification, but harder to control.

Most religions share these general beliefs, but beyond this there is considerable disagreement. Each religion has its own creation myth, its of afterlife, and its own views of the roles of the elements, spirits, and daemons.

PAGANS

As in Europe, the term "pagan" in Oneiros covers a varied class of polytheistic religions. In general, the pagan religions have a common cultural heritage and strikingly similar gods, although they are known by different names.

The Pagan religion believes that the world was created by gods, or rather, that the Gods are the creation of the world. The Gods represent the basic forces which keep the Dream of Existance in balance. The three leader gods are Craft, Ken, and Will. ('Ken' here meaning understanding) Craft is the creator god, the god of harmony: the father, the smith, and the poet, who creates by both imagination and diligence. Ken is the god of duty: the teacher, the leader, and the guide. Will is the god of desire: the inspirer, the tempter, and the rebel - a Satanic figure who was cast from the Heavens, and now resides in the Underworld.

The Pagans believe that both the Gods and Man are integral parts of the Dream, and what is good is a balance between the gods. All gods must be paid repect and attention to, and their contrary tendencies will balance. The afterlife is with them - the gods remember faithful individuals, so that they will be reborn among the gods. On the other hand, evil ones will be remembered by daemons, and reborn in the nether regions.

NATURALISM

Naturalism is a religion which believes that mankind and the world are pathological to the natural state of Existance - that the Dream is unnaturally deep and feverish. The world is torn and uncertain - a mass of conflict between the elements. They believe that the elements are sentient forces, and further that there is a fifth element, called Animus. The elements are the natural forces of the mind, and they seek to restore proper, rational, and concious thought, or, in other words, the end of the world. The world in general and mankind in particular are the forces which make the mind of Existance a fractured, endlessly dreaming vortex. One day, it is said, Existance will awaken. The dead will rise, the sea will turn solid, the lost will be returned, and the stars will fall. Then all those who are prepared (those who believe in Naturalism) will be born of the true flesh, which is eternal. In this world, the petty dreamstuff which forms our bodies can be torn asunder with a whim. In the real world, however, matter is solid and eternal.

In practice, naturalists are rather cult-like. There beliefs were more dominant in a previous empire, and now their devoted believers are rare members of the educated classes, who meet in public or private to review their philosophies and articles of faith.

MORPHEISM

Morpheism, in contrast, is a community-oriented religion which focusses on the power of the dreams of the masses. They worship Existance himself as the one who engendered Mankind and who provides a fitting afterlife. They believe that after death, each person lives on in the memories of those who knew and loved him - and in particular, in their dreams. The dreams of mortal men are the world beyond, the next layer of the universe. Each person's afterlife is shped by the thoughts of the living.

Morpheism preaches goodwill and community - to make whole the afterlives of others. They thus have a vaguely Christian outlook, and have similar frailties. According to the Scriptures, to think ill of another is to do him ill, and invites retribution. Still, the empires of the Morpheists conquer just like any other. It is a strong and entrenched institution, but not such a dominating force as Christianity was in our world.

Their priesthood are not that important both in belief and in practice. They are the leaders and advisors of the community, but they have no 'divine power'. In general, Morpeists are fairly tolerant within the community, but they look poorly on outsiders, and are given to be cliquish and closed-minded.


John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Sun Nov 10 10:34:39 2002