Emeralds by Night
Cult of Ecstasy
The Cult of Ecstasy is one of the Nine Traditions. Their focus Sphere is Time.
Many Initiates come to the Cult because of its reputation as a continual party. Popular opinion has it that sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll are what the Cult is about. When the mages get to the party, though, they find out that there's a very specific point to all the revelry. The Cult of Ecstasy does use things like drugs and music and even sex, but they're just means to an end. The point is to achieve a mental state that transcends the physical world, a trance that allows the mage to see beyond his normal experience and go outside all the lines that keep most people and mages penned in. cultists take the word ecstasy in its original meaning: A sudden, intense rush of feeling that catapults the subject into an altered state. It doesn't have to be a pleasant feeling, but given a choice, must Cultists definitely prefer it that way. the Cult of Ecstasy breaks down barriers and self-imposed limitations to give people a rush of eye-opening experience.
Ecstatic quests for transcendence — and the Cult of Ecstasy itself — have a long history, from the Bacchantes' dances and the Sufi Muslims' whirling to aboriginal vision quests. Drugs, pain, hunger, intense sexual stimulation, dance, and music are the traditional tools for achieving a trance state, and the Cult hasn't really seen the need to change any of them. Members of the Cult have always been visionaries and rebels, even more so than other mages. Prophetic and insightful, they expanded their minds through exhausting ritual and dangerous substances, all in the pursuit of ultimate awareness.
The Cult's early incarnations spread from mystery visionaries in the Near East and India. There, seers learned he power of altered mind states through dance, music, and simple drugs. Entire communities took up the whirling, fatiguing practices of seers, while in other areas hermit-like proto-Ecstatics lived as mystery men who uttered cryptic pronouncements and lived apart from the press of mundane humanity. In both cases, the roots of the Tradition came together with people who broke down their own boundaries of perception and comfort in the pursuit of wisdom.
By the Renaissance, the Ecstatics had become recognized by the other Traditions, who labeled them Seers. Ecstatic practices in mad, frenzied passion distinguished them from the conservatism of the times, yet their uncanny knack for foresight let them arrive in the right places at the right times. These Seers embraced the whole of human experience, equating passion with divinity and discarding the stifling mores of the Church. The Seers would accept no limits — not from themselves, from society or from any gods. This liberation both fascinated and terrified the more conservative Traditions, who alternately reviled and wondered at the Ecstatics' practices and powers.
Although the Cult has undergone many changes of name — from Sahajiya to Cult of Bacchus to Cult of Ecstasy — its original focus remains. Cultists seek to surpass their notions beyond human limits, to reach an ecstatic transcendence where their consciousness spans all time and space. Today, the tools are different, but the result the same. Music, dance, sex, exercise, drugs — anything that can be pursued to exhaustive, passionate explosions of feeling is fair game. The Cult thrives in the eternal second at the height of an elegant dance, the shuddering sensitivity of total exhaustions, and the lateral thoughts of the opened mind. Its message comes to people through this music, urging people to cast aside their banal notions in favor of ecstasy, experience, and their own mad visions.
Flexibility is the Tradition's greatest asset. Because the Ecstatics understand that no boundary is permanent, they're able to see that there's always new ways to achieve goals and new ways to live their lives. As a whole, the Cult eschews structure in favor of encouraging creative, often chaotic rebellion. New experience is good experience — even if it hurts, the mage has learned something about how not to do things. The closest the Cult comes to a formal structure lies in its Code of Ananada, the proverbs of bliss that teach joy, compassion, sacred emotion, and respect for others' passions in a sort of ethical guide that encourages each Cultist to embrace the differences of others.
Unsurprisingly, the Tradition has little real structure. Individual mages don't have a problem working together — they prefer company, usually — but they don't see the need for a hierarchy or for too much organization. When something needs to happen, it'll happen. If more than a few Cultists need to meet in order to solve a problem or come to a consensus, they do so in during a rare Tradition convergence. Chantry houses tend to resemble community hangouts, jam-session rooms, or fraternity houses more than magical workplaces, and they're often inhabited by several Cultists and a handful of Sleepers.
The Cult draws more new mages than any other Tradition, at first, because of its reputation as a gang of hippies. The ones who stay, though, are visionaries, one and all. There's no real list of the types of people who become Ecstatic mages, because anyone can realize that they're not seeing all that there is to see. The only unifying trait Ecstatics share is the fact that they realize, even if they haven't yet Awakened, that limitations and boundaries can be surpassed. There exist a few small sects within the Cult, primarily of extremists or those who feel the usefulness of some organization.
The Aghoris are a centuries-old faction near Bengali in India, who practice mutilation, pain, and destruction as tools to surpass the mortal body. By destroying the shell, they reason, they can encourage the growth of the soul. This rather extreme philosophy denies the Ecstatic Code of Ananda, and most other Ecstatics stay the hell away from these dangerous types.
In Europe and the Americas, some Cultists continue the decadent practices of the late Hellfire Clubs, moving in secret circles of "gentlemen's societies" complete with mutilating initiation rites, intoxicants,, and damaging drugs and painful mind-games and emotionally manipulative "pleasures." These Acharne move among all of the stylish-yet-pained subcultures, especially the modern Gothic movement, spreading their particular joy of damnation with an amorality that sets them apart from Cultists or Hollowers. They, too, see the Code of Ananda as weakness. They practice the Mind Sphere in their pursuit of emotional mastery.
The Hagalaz are a violent group of Nordic berserkers, rune mages, and tricksters, sometimes with ties to other sorcerous societies that share their passions. Engaging in bloody rune-carving and dangerous traps reminiscent of the Norse deity Loki, they personify the madness that runs through the chaotic side of Scandinavian myth. These dangerous types see the modern world and its religions as weak, and they push to overthrow them with a more militant Valhallan society.
Consorting with the mercurial fae, the Fellowship of Pan indulges in rites of sex, drinking, and Muse-inspired poetry and debate. These Cultists maintain ties with the modern descendants of the fae and initiate their members through the wild parties of the satyrs.
Politically active Cultists often wind up in the Dissonance Society, a small group that teaches personal responsibility and ethics as a cornerstone for anarchic society. Members of the Society indulge in a wide range of criminal (sometimes almost terrorist) activities and argue for the overthrow of the stifling chains of society. Members of this group tend to have an intellectual streak, using debate and discussion as tools just as much as action.
The K'an Lu Taoists contrast with the Akashic Brotherhood as a sect that practices extreme passion and physical pleasure as opposed to the asceticism of the monks. However, the enlightened K'an Lu see the need for a balance between discipline and excess, so they too practice martial arts, meditation, trances, and discipline. The contrast between discipline and chaos lets them cut loose from the limits of experience to open their doors of perception in controlled ways.
Modern Klubwerks (or "clubkids," or just "clubbers," depending upon who you ask) are Cultists who indulge in the mass consciousness of nightclubs and concerts. In the pressing throng of humanity sharing a common beat, these muses reach out for the primal pulse of the mob. To them, the heartbeat of many people moves beyond the mind of the one; the actions taken in the heat of frenzied dance reflect basic human impulse unfettered by reasoning or prudish mores.`These dancers indulge in all of the club scenes, creating magic in the waves of humanity that throng such venues.
Ecstatic philosophy holds that all limitations are self-imposed. Humans build their own comfortable domiciles in both the physical and mental worlds. To surpass one's limits, one must move beyond the barriers of comfort and tranquility. Although sanity and safety are left behind, the true experience lies beyond — learning comes from new experience, not repetitions of old, tired things. Everyone must strive to push outward and discover their own new ways of learning about the world. The ecstatic state is just a mind open to new experiences because it's released from the confines of self-imposed limits. Once human limits are breached, the person sees beyond the horizon of human insight, to reach a truly cosmic consciousness. Tools like sex and drugs — the Kamamarga, or paths to ecstasy — just open the door. It's up to the individual to step through, to see what's on the other side and to keep on going past where even those crutches take her, to the heart of the Lakashim, the pulse that drives the world.
All of the Cult's understanding comes with a serious glitch, unfortunately. The Ecstatics' tools generally end up as crutches. If the mage doesn't pay attention to what she's really doing — looking beyond her mind and her life for answers — she runs the very real risk of becoming dependent on her focus to do magic in any way, or even just to live. And that dependency isn't just psychological. A lot of Cultists become addicted to drugs or absorbed by their chosen foci to the point that nothing else can get beyond it into their lives. Cult mages also fall prey to their own chaos. They rebel so hard, or they try to go in so many directions at once, that nothing ever gets accomplished. Chaos and rebellion must be directed somehow, or the energy just swirls around in a sort of tornado and does no one any good.
Theories And Practices:
Each ecstatic has her favorite tools. Some things just work better for some people than others. that said, though, many Ecstatics lean toward some combination of drugs and music. Music is the most powerful tool for changing perception, according to many Ecstatic mages, and it's the easiest way to really get in touch with the primal and spiritual energies within and without.
Even though the Cult of Ecstasy encourages the use of tools in achieving altered states, no Cultist would ever force drugs, sex, or any other experience on another person. The point of such states is to increase understanding and empathy, not to kill it. No mage who has felt the pain of the Earth or of the child down the street could bring herself to hurt an innocent. Cultists aren't drug dealers and they aren't pimps. On the other hand, if someone comes to an Ecstatic looking for a new way to see his life, the Mage will be more than happy to help him extend his senses in whatever way he's comfortable with.
Once the Cultist is enlightened enough, she can achieve her transcendent state without outside help. She begins to understand that the only tool that's really necessary to move beyond customary boundaries is her own mind. Few Ecstatics truly abandon their foci, but those few that do become sages — they know what the future might hold and they have a better understanding of the entirety of the universe than many mages of other Traditions. the trick is to wean the mage away from the thought that the drug, music, or other tool is the experience.
The core of the Cult's approach to magic lies in the belief that the senses can be extended to include just about everything. Once the mage has experienced and understood a thing or a situation, she can reach out and adjust it to fit her will. Other peoples' perceptions can also be altered. Of course that door was always there; you just never noticed it before, right? Changing the way a person sees life or a particular instance is one of the Cult's best approaches to magic. Perception, after all, is reality.
Just as the Ecstatics surpass the boundaries of mundane thought and understanding, they also jump the boundaries of time itself. They understand that time is a human -constructed idea, just like ethics and language. Time remains the Tradition's particular area of expertise, and Cultists seem to have an innate understanding of and control over how they and other perceive the passage of seconds, even years. As a result of their constant gazing into five minutes ago and three days hence, they've developed a distracted look. People usually write this look off as a stoned expression, but the Ecstatic is more likely looking at who his lunch date will be tomorrow.