Emeralds by Night
The Celestial Chorus is one of the Nine Traditions. Their focus Sphere is Prime.
The Celestial Chorus is one of the most misunderstood Traditions of all the Nine. Although it's a religious Tradition without question, it doesn't focus on one religion over another. The One and Prime that the Chorus reveres transcends cosmic song, the glorious radiance of Pure and Prime. When humanity is united again in this reverence, the Prime shall be whole again, the song will manifest, and the universe will be healed.
Like the Akashic Brotherhood, the Celestial Chorus holds that it's one of the first Traditions, not necessarily in its current form but the embodiment of a philosophy and an exaltation that's been part of the universe since its creation. The Chorus's roots stretch to hymns and exaltations that can be traced back thousands of years; its actually existence as a Tradition dates to approximately the time of Ikhnaton. Since then, though, the Chorus has had an incredible influence over humanity's history, not least because the Tradition fervently maintains that its duty is to protect Sleepers and guide them toward Ascension through the knowledge of the One.
From the earliest days, the Chorus has urged people to seek the song that unites them in contemplation of a better form, a celestial harmony. In some times and places, the Chorus led by example and founded tolerant, accepting and hopeful religions. In others, the Chorus went awry, bringing forward its vision of hierophants and heretics, the Choristers looked to the inspiration of something greater than mankind, a creative force that could unify all people under its influence.
Unfortunately, the Chorus isn't always pure and right, not even in its desire to help. The many experiments of the Chorus in fostering a "true way" opened the door to dogmatic schisms with the intolerant medieval churches of Dark Ages Catholicism and Islam. From roots with Grecian and Roman temples, the Chorus slowly evolved into a form closer to the Catholic Church. All Choristers learn about the group's involvement in the Inquisition and in both sides of the Crusades. Although the ideal — keeping the world safe from dangerous influences — may have been there for the Inquisitors, their fervent belief got in the way of their sight and their better judgment. New Choristers are cautioned to keep their minds open, to remain focused on unity and to remember that all paths are trod by the One and Prime. Initiates also learn about the Tradition's ties to the Cabal of Pure Thought, a small group within the New World Order. Although the two groups started out as one, the Cabal of Pure Thought refused the idea that all people, regardless of faith, could be part of its One World.
It was the split of the Cabal of Pre Thought from the Chorus that many believe led to the downfall of the Tradition. Although their power was prominent in the Middle Ages, many Choristers came t be regarded as heretics for their schismatic acceptance of other beliefs as equally valid paths to the One, while some clutched so tightly to their views that they fought even their brethren. The uncompromising drive of the Church, combined with its corruption by material greed, drove people to embrace the Cabal of Pure Thought's ideas of empowering the masses of humanity instead of laboring in hopes of a better afterlife. Eventually, the power of faith waned as the Order of Reason rose. Members of the Chorus fled the crumbling pillars of the Church, as often hounded by churchmen swayed through the Order's material gifts as by the Order's own soldiers.
As the clouds of Reason and Technocracy gathered, the Chorus sought shelter in sub-groups, lay communities, mystery cults, and minor offices. The broken back of religious belief could no longer support the Chorus, and members had to hide their miracles amongst the Masses as leaders or supporters of tiny groups. The Chorus' vision remained focused on a holy communion, a Sacred City wherein all humanity could unite its voice in harmony with the Song of Creation, but the goal slipped slowly from their grasp. Ironically, only this common defeat could truly unite the Chorus' disparate factions, and even today they retain a suspicious and guarded relationship within the Tradition. People still want to believe. There's a need for something greater, a desire that the Chorus answers in people, and the Chorus fans the flames of faith from that tiny spark of questing.
The Chorus adheres to a structure more strict than that of any other Tradition except the Order of Hermes. The hierarchy is modeled closely after the early Catholic church, with a system of rank based on seniority within the Chorus, responsibility and magical ability. Communication is easy for the Chorus, because every junior Singer knows who her superiors and inferiors are, and he can pass information along. However, many of the Tradition's opponents point out that the system of rank encourages the Singers to forget their real purpose and focus on their upward mobility. The point is valid — some Choristers are more interested in recognition than in helping others — but the Chorus defends its system. It's designed to teach new members and allow the more experienced ones to guide the Tradition wisely, they say.
The Chorus is filled with voices from all walks of life and all corners of the world. Anyone with faith in the One and a desire to help can become a Singer. Choristers don't even have to be religious to begin with; they can just have faith that there's something out there that's bigger than they are. It's more important that an Initiate have the desire to achieve harmony than that she believe a certain bit of dogma. However, some people are more drawn to this Tradition than others: Nurses, social workers, people with handicaps, clergy, and teachers are likely to become Choristers.
Any number of factions make their home in the Chorus. Although the Tradition divides along lines of religion, it also sub-divides by different ways of approaching religion or seeking divinity. These manifold factions are, like the rest of the Tradition, often a loose collection of people who can agree on only some basic tenets. Indeed, more and more Choristers reject factionalism today in favor of a true unity among all members of the Tradition.
Living alone in the far places of the Earth, the Anchorites seek individual wisdom and salvation. The Anchorites don't so much make up a faction as they do a group of individuals who reject the traditional structures. Each one seeks a personal commitment to the divine. Rarely, they interact with the "real world," but most find that the material world is a corrupting influence and they're quick to return to their hermitages. In their communion with wild places and unknown entities, many Anchorites develop a strong connection to Spirit magic.
Conservative Choristers tend to work along Septarian lines. These members decry the Chorus' work with the other Traditions, claiming that the influences of other mages dilute the sacred song with discordant technology and heretical magic. Only the Chorus, they claim, has a true vision of unity. Although their influence isn't strong within the Tradition — the Chorus already has too many enemies to go about making more — many Choristers share at least a little bit of their reservations about the works of other mages. Septarians study Prime magic as they purify their souls to come closer to their own vision of unity with the One.
The opposite group to the Septarians is the Latitudinarians, who argue for a total restructuring of the Tradition along less Catholic lines. The Latitudinarians believe that the Chorus' medieval structure is too confining and too exclusionary, and that the Tradition must change to accommodate not only other religions but the belief structures of other Traditions as well. each Latitudinarian has a personal belief of what is and isn't acceptable, of course, but they all agree that the Tradition should assume a more open structure, a greater degree of debating freedom and a higher tolerance of other Tradition magic.
the most open of the Choristers are usually Monists, who seek a single unified church. How can the Chorus bring about a unity of mankind if it can't achieve unity within its own ranks? The Monists try to reconcile the difference between other factions and religions, making allowances and compromises to build a unified church. Their goal isn't to follow any one dogmatic stricture of a "right and true" way to approach divinity, but rather to open the doors to all understanding of the One as equally valid. Although they meet with considerable opposition, the Monists are persuasive and very tolerant for their Tradition, and they excel at finding allies among disparate groups. They work with the Prime element as a means to exemplify the common roots of all Creation.
The Alexandrian Society seeks a reconciliation of religion with science, by bringing scientific though into the fold of religion. To them, the process of discovery and inquiry is a sacred search for divinity. Although sometimes accused of harboring elements sympathetic to the Technocracy, the Alexandrians believe in each individual's right to find a balance between science and faith. Furthermore, they denounce the Technocracy as a sterile and soulless creation. In studying science, the Alexandrians develop their understanding of Master, to learn how it reflects qualities inherent to divinity.
The Sons of Mithras make up a small but militant faction that embraces the early Roman cult of Mithraism. These soldiers still hold some grudges against the Chorus for the persecution of Mithraism by Christianity, but they serve as stalwart defenders of the Chorus, believing that all have a claim to security in the quest for the divine. Sons of Mithras are still a bit of an underground cult, but they're at least recognized by the modern Chorus. Most Sons study Forces as a manifestation of Mithras, their god of military might.
Children of Albi are essentially the remnants o the Albigensian movement from the days of the Crusades, who cling to the notion that the material and the divine are separate worlds ad that only a rejection of the material can allow transcendence to the spiritual. As with other groups that were persecuted during the Crusades, the Children hold a prominent division between Church and State, believing the State to be of the material (and thus corrupt) world, and they adhere to sacred scriptures that later Christianity discarded. Children of Albi also study Prime magic to master the secrets of the hidden and holy in contrast to the corrupt material world.
The Nashimites are a Gnostic cult with views similar to the Children of Albi but stretching back even father. To them, the One holds the capacity for all the elements of creation, and the course of living souls determines its will. Thus, the Nashimites believe in the possibility of a truly maltheistic divinity, for as mankind's soul becomes corrupt, so too does the One fall from purity. Naturally, Nashimites work to spread the ideals of light and compassion to as many people as possible, hoping to raise the souls of all mankind to a higher standard so that the One follows and brings the universe to a better state. Like the Children of Albi, the Nashimites study Prime magic to discern the state of the One.
As perhaps the most mysterious and schismatic group, the Knights Templar rejoined the Chorus only recently. Although they protect fiercely their old ways of Christianity, they also hold to unusual rites passed down through the ages and have a conspiratorial structure. The existence of such a structure isn't surprising considering the historical "end" of the Templars at the hands of a church and ruler that denounced the Knights simply to seize their money. Modern Templars are warriors of faith who bear arms to defend their Christian teachings, battling the enemies of Orthodoxy and the Chorus. Some Templars still refuse to associate with the Chorus due to the Tradition's acceptance of other religions, but most see the Technocracy as the greatest betrayal of humanity's divinely granted capacity for through and free will. While other Choristers seek a unification of humanity in pursuit of the divine, the Templars battle for righteousness with unparalleled zeal, supported by the magical swords, hereditary armor, submachine guns, and military training. Not surprisingly, Templars master the Sphere of Forces, manifested as the veritable Wrath of God.
Nothing so defines humanity as its capacity to strive for the divine on some level, every individual is aware of this spark, this higher ideal, this greater power. Even the most evil and depraved monstrosity recognizes this divinity, if only through its deliberate rejection, but unity waits for all. Just as the splintered shards of the One are scattered throughout the world, so too do humans seek a unity of purpose that'll rejoin them. The purity of song joins many voices together as one, in a greater harmony that unites them all and creates something new and beautiful that no single voice could make. From such a chorus, there comes a song of a glorious whole. Even strife and discord are washed away by the greater song. So, too, can all humanity be united when the greater unity brings peace, understanding and divine grace to everyone.
The failings of the Chorus are as obvious as its strengths. On the surface, it might look like the Chorus is made up of a horde of humming people who all agree that there's one deity and that the deity is the One and Prime. However, the divisions between the various religions within the Chorus remain. Catholics and Anglicans still argue, Jews and Muslims still don't quite trust one another and every group has a problem with at least one of the others. They may all ultimately decide that they worship the One, but they can't quite shake their individual religious ideas. Of course, this weakness lies directly in the way of the Tradition's goal of unifying humanity. If they can't agree on their own philosophy, how can they possibly lead all people everywhere into harmony with each other? It's an ironic twist that a Tradition devoted to unity should have a history so scarred with conflict and oppression in the dogged conflict over the form that unity should take.
Theories And Practices:
The base creed of this Tradition is that of the universal Aum, the song that was sung before time was time. The One begin a song, and that Song split into the infinite harmony that's all of the children of the One. Sleepers and Singers — as the Chorus calls its members — alike are children of the One, and all are part of the Song. Although the Tradition appears to be made up of only Christians, it has many other faiths within its ranks as well. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Pagans also join the Chorus. They continue to practice their religions while understanding that the names they use for their gods are part and parcel of the One force that's the source of all divinity and light.
The strength of this Tradition is its devotion to its highest ideals. The ideal Chorister is everything that a good Christian, a good Muslim, a good Jew, or a good Pagan should be: Kind, compassionate, strong, faithful, and altruistic. Choristers are dedicated to helping their fellow humans, both Sleeper and Awakened, and they stand up against oppression and hate. This Tradition might be peaceful, but it's definitely not nonviolent. Holy war is still war, and holy warriors are terrifying on the battlefield.
Magic is still the will of the One, and the singers simply open themselves to it. They become channels for the Song and allow the flow of harmony to fill their spirits and their voices. No human can do more than guide the direction of magic. Mages are simply the hands and the fingers of the One and Prime. Song is the great symphony of creation and a Chorister can release that symphony, if only for a moment, through the mortal vessel as it becomes one with the divine. Because Choristers focus so strongly on a meta-magical and meta-religious idea, their area of expertise is Prime, the Sphere that deals with the very fabric of the universe. Prime is the direct magical manifestation of the One.
On a more physical note, Chorus efforts often take the shape of common church functions, like soup kitchens, free medical clinics, or caring for the ill and lonely. If people have their material needs fulfilled, the mages reason, they're more inclined to be generous to their neighbors. Also, it's easier to spread a message to people when the messenger is actually among the people. Standing in a pulpit is fine, but it isn't going to reach the people who really need to hear the song. The fact that they're leading by example is also central to the Choristers' approach to encouraging Ascension.