True Confession (Gaalite)
The True Confession is a formal religion whose adherents recognize it as such. It is a creed, based on a written scripture called the Sacred Writ, doctrines that are derived from that writ by accredited priests who belong to an ecclesiastical hierarchy, and traditions which are based on the Writ and these doctrines, or which can be demonstrated by reference to a clear line of transmission through authoritative personnel. It is in principle, therefore, an exclusive religion, and people who do not accept the authority of its scriptures, priestly establishment, or traditions are not regarded as belonging to the True Confession even if they regards themselves as adherents. The first key distinguishing feature of the True Confession relative to heathen religions is the sharp divide it draws between spiritual and material beings. Spirit is eternal and indivisible, whereas matter is, generally speaking, mortal, and limited by its particular form. Spirit therefore preexists matter, and could in no wise be generated by the cosmos. Quite the opposite – spirit created matter – spoke, shaped, and willed it into existence. Because spirit is inseparable, it is an error, one with grave consequences, to think that it forms multiple entities, or gods. There is only one God, but because He cannot be beheld in His entirety by limited beings, certain aspects of Him act as interfaces, or messengers, to mortal beings. These messengers are referred to as angels, but they are also spiritual beings, part of a heavenly host wholly subject to the will of God. If a mortal being rejects God, this being has not simply made a choice of how to live in this world, but he or she has fallen into error. To stand aside from God is to stand in darkness and evil, to reject the spiritual, eternal part of oneself that is connected to God. There is no evil in the world, save the absence of the divine presence. It follows that the only true act of creation is that which is performed by God, or through His divine will. The world as it exists – the Heaven and the Earth, the heavenly bodies, the seas, mountains, rivers and forests, the plants, beasts, fish and insects – were all created by God, who, when He beheld His creation, saw that it was good. But because the world was good, God imparts His grace and his love to it, and maintains it, though as inert matter or flesh, it would inevitably wind down and die without them. Most importantly, God creates a special, human being, in His own image. Although many simple people take this to mean that God looks like a human being, it really means that humanity is like God in its ability to choose and create freely, so long as the source of this creative power is duly acknowledged. As part of this gift, God willingly diminishes himself, so as not to dictate what His creatures will decide to do or make. Humanity, as long as it accepts and recognizes this divine gift, is saved from the mortality to which the rest of the world is subject, because God breathed His Divine Spirit into the dust from which human bodies were shaped. However, those who do not accept the gift, and who think they can live and create better than God, and who reject His very existence, or His oneness and indivisibility cut themselves off from the Divine Spirit, and condemn themselves to death. This applies also to those angels who reject God’s oneness and goodness, and who separate themselves from him, thinking they can improve on his creation. From this, it follows that human beings, because they are imbued with spirit in the form of an individual soul, is distinct from the rest of creation, including other sentient beings, that were created by fallen angels, that separated themselves from God. Their creations – monstrous hybrid creatures, serpents, giants, undead beings that walk the earth, in the eyes of the True Confession’s adherents – are a mockery of God, though they, too, may find salvation if they throw off the yoke of their fallen masters. Another feature that distinguishes the True Confession from heathen religions is its conception of time. Since the cosmos does not generate itself, its existence is the product of one will. It does not form beings and things, or perish as a result of multiple acts of creation, synthesis, or destruction. It is not reborn anew. Rather, it experiences periodic irruptions into it by the spirit of God, who is Himself timeless. Because of his uniqueness and his goodness, these irruptions are significant, and have value. There is a single story, a history, to be told, about the irruptions of God into the world. It has a beginning – creation, and an end – ultimate salvation from death. Given the special character of human beings, this linear story is primarily concerned with it, because salvation is fundamentally the story of humanity overcoming error and darkness, and finding God’s grace. Particularly significant events in this story are remembered and commemorated, not because they are repeated every month, year, or eon, but precisely because they are unique. Since the specific elements of history are important, they must be recorded as accurately as possible, because doing so prevents people from falling into the error of thinking that history can be stopped, or escaped from. As it happens, the history of the True Confession did not begin in the Land of Nor’, and the faith came there relatively recently. The initial foreignness of the religion is no excuse to reject it, however, because the opportunity for salvation that it offers is reason enough to familiarize oneself with all the history that is related by the Sacred Writ. Not only is this history replete with teachings that aid salvation, but they contain important models of a people trying to live as a community under God. Now that history has irrupted into the Land of Nor, its people can join others, or perhaps even take the lead, in helping God accomplish his designs in the world. The Trinity The Trinity is the fundamental doctrine about God taught by the True Confession. Although God is one, pure transcendent spirit, all-powerful, and all-knowing, having full self-awareness and a single will, He nevertheless has three forms, or persons, all of whom share this divine essence. The first divine person is called the Creator. The Creator wills the world into existence, and commands His creations to obey His Law. He rules over history from beyond time, and intervenes to change its course in accordance to his wishes. Because he rules over the world from His throne in heaven, His actions may sometimes seem arbitrary or inscrutable to mortals, who cannot know the true intent of His Divine Plan, and must accept it. But a purely transcendent God would remain beyond all ken of humankind. He would be entirely self-contained, without feeling the need to create a world from nothing. The True Confession insists that Creation is an act of love, not necessitated, but freely chosen. As God creates the world, so does His actualization of his thoughts beget a distinct divine person – the Redeemer. The Redeemer projects the image of perfection of every created thing at the precise point of creation, showing each thing an image of its divine potential, though only those things that are created in God’s image can actualize that potential. The Redeemer does not command. Rather, He becomes its partner and enters into communion with it, because he experiences the world as a created being while at the same time retaining His eternity and divinity. The creation of the world is an act of augmentation. It is miraculous precisely because it brings into being something new, which has never existed. The creation of beings that can themselves create and make decisions is also a willing act of withdrawal and diminution, the making of space for these created beings to act. But this willful contraction creates a dearth of divinity, which is felt in the hearts of beings who have a subconscious sense of their Creator, and experience a draw, a desire for the divine. This longing elicits a response from God, who reaches out to created beings as a specific Divine Presence, in a particular time and place, inhabiting a concrete receptacle, such as a temple. This intimate, personal form of God, called, is typically conceived as having a feminine form. The Trinity is a difficult conception for outsiders to understand. Many of them contend that it constitutes a reintroduction of multiple gods into a faith that claims to believe in just one. To this charge, theologians from within the True Confession respond that faith in the Trinity is a crucial middle way between the heathens, who shut themselves off from the domain of spirit by dwelling in the material world alone, and those heretics who, in their insistence upon seeing God as pure spirit, wish to escape the bonds of the material world, thereby rejecting creation as God’s gift. Why God appears in three forms, not more or fewer, and how He can be simultaneously Three and yet One is one of the central mysteries of the religion, and ultimately cannot be rationally proven or explained (perhaps that is why it is not even mentioned in the Sacred Writ). One can move closer to understanding it though the contemplation of icons or other divinely inspired artistic creations (though the True Confession does not allow sculptural depictions of God or saints), but ultimately, the Trinity can only be experienced by living (and perhaps even dying). Thus, the representation of the Trinity in virtually all aspects of life, from the Liturgy (where the priest represents the Creator while preparing the Eucharist in private, the Redeemer while circulating among the worshipers, while the incense in the priest’s censer stands for the Divine Presence) to the priestly channeling of divinity, which is has a single focus and intent, yet distributes among three recipients. Humanity, Sin, Gaal and Kivi The True Confession attests the centrality of the Garden of Irii in the story of human origins. Humans were intentionally brought into being as an act of love, and in the image of God. The True Confession affirms there were two humans created initially – the couple Achim and Ruta, from whom all humans today derive. They were therefore related to God spiritually, not by blood. The True Confession further asserts that a specific date for the Creation – 6800 - 6900 years before the present time (depending on the point of origin of the campaign). The first human pair was originally neither mortal nor immortal, but created as beings with the choice to obey or disobey their Creator. Like all people, they could only learn about God and the Trinity through experience, and by making their own mistakes. Achim and Ruta disobeyed God’s injunction, and ate a fruit that dangled from the branches of the World Tree that grew in the middle of the Garden. By doing so, they separated themselves from God, and condemned themselves to death (for life everlasting is possible only in the light of God). They were expelled from the Garden, but not so much as a punishment, but as an act of mercy. For if they had bathed in the Water of Life, which washed the roots of the World Tree, they would have lived forever – as accursed beings of Darkness, separated from God’s grace forever. Death, which they experienced after being driven away, was therefore more a gift than the wages for their disobedience. Though they faced death and hardship from a world that rejected their dominion over it now that they rejected their divine heritage, they would use their newfound knowledge to learn, and to have progeny, thus persevering as a species. The process of expanding the domain of humanity, change, and preparation had begun. And although each new person was born into a harsh world as a consequence of Achim and Ruta’s sinful act, they were not marked with their guilt, but free to choose whether to live a righteous life, or to succumb to the Darkness. As humanity began to spread throughout the earth, many fell into wickedness. On several occasions, God had to intervene to ensure that the world did not fall under the sway of evil people. Once He even came close to destroying all humans, saving only Tai in the Time of the Great Rain, though this was also done to destroy the giants, who had gained power over humans at that time. After that, the Lord pledged to refrain any attempts to destroy the world again, and humans spread around the world, more numerous than ever. The sons of Tai divided the world between them, with the eldest, Kelil, becoming custodian of the coasts and gardens in the vicinity of the Garden, tending to the land around, and hoping to recreate the conditions of paradise, and thereby to please God so as to gain readmittance into the hidden and guarded Garden as well. The middle son, Baram, sinned against his father, and was given ownership of the mountains, deserts, steppes, and other desolate places. And the youngest, Lavon, was given the vast forests of the north, and it is from him that the Noriki descend. But at that time, the Lord favored the children of Kelil the Firstborn. One tribe called the Kivites, were especially singled out, and given laws by the Creator, and Seers inspired by the Divine Presence, so they could serve as teachers of other peoples in rejecting false idols, and life under the light of the Lord. And the Seers received visions that a Redeemer would come and save his people from the travails of a fallen world. After having been sufficiently prepared by this life as a holy nation, and after the rise of the Friaziny Empire, which covered most of the known world, God saw that the world was now ready to receive a New Covenant, under which all people could now begin to overcome to consequences of sin. Toward this end, the Redeemer would become incarnate in the flesh, live life as a human being, without ceasing to at the same time be God. Thus, over 13 centuries ago, the Divine Presence descended upon a Kivite virgin named Kivi, and she gave birth to Gaal, the Lord Redeemer. In his life, he ministered to the poor and rejected, taught devotees about the Church they would build, and the world to come of life everlasting. He also performed many miracles, showing what belief in God and treading the path of righteousness made possible. Because they had wrongly thought that Gaal had come to demolish their Chantry and to claim earthly dominion for himself, the Friaziny and the Kivites condemned Gaal to death, and hung Him from a cross fashioned from wood that came from the World Tree. But Gaal overcame and, defeating all temptation to reject His divinity, he triumphed over death and the Netherworld, which could not contain him, and ascended to Heaven. Thus, he lived a wholly blameless life, and triumphed where Achim had fallen short, proving that humanity could recover its divinity. It is for this reason that a sign of the cross upheld by a believing priest turns away creatures that have foresworn God and chosen to live beyond His grace – it is a reminder of their wrong choice, and defeat. The Virgin Kivi, who had been the vessel of the Divine Presence, served as Gaal’s gateway into the world, and suffered alongside her son triumphed where Ruta had fallen. She urged the Devotees to remain steadfast after the crucifixion, and was readmitted into the Garden without suffering death, to prepare it for the coming of the Heavenly Kingdom on earth when her son returned at the end of time. While the Devotees built the church as a universal institution dedicated to proselytizing, saving souls and preparing humanity for the Return, Kivi, whom the Divine Presence never left, served as its guardian. When the Chantry had been destroyed by the Friaziny, and the Kivites expelled from their land, the followers of Gaal said that the Kivi and the Church had replaced the Chantry as the dwelling place of the Divine Presence on Earth. It would be Gaal’s spiritual bride, and this marriage is celebrated in the Mystery of the Eucharist, where the companionship of the Redeemer and the people is celebrated by the consumption of bread and wine transmuted into His Body and Blood. Angels and Demons Humans are the most important of God’s creations because of their struggle to reconcile themselves to their Creator in history. But God is a prolific Creator, and fashioned many other beings to express His joy and glory. His first creations, along with their abode in heaven, were purely spiritual beings of light, and unlike humans, lacked a material body. These “messengers”, created to glorify the Lord and to faithfully execute His instructions, would be called angels. Unlike humans, they are immortal, ever-vital, and possess a much greater range of powers. However, because they are not God’s partners in creation, and not the focus of the divine drama of salvation in history, God sees them as helpers playing supporting roles in this drama, and therefore, requires them to bow down to humanity as a superior creature, for despite all appearances at the present, such it will become at the end of time. They are divided into nine orders, with the lowest serving the role of guiding and protecting individual people throughout their lives, while the highest stand next to God’s throne, singing his praises. Angels are not mindless instruments of God’s will. Though they feel no anxiety, they are beings with emotions and individual personalities. Moreover, like humans, they are offered a free choice of whether to obey Divine commandments or not. Unlike humans, however, this decision is only undertaken once, and not spread throughout a lifetime of struggle against temptation. Once they decide for God, they do become willing instruments of God’s will forever. Some angels, including their erstwhile leader, Bes, refused to obey. They thought they could supersede God’s creation, and arrange things better. Specifically, they refused to bow down to humans, regarding them as inferior beings on account of their material forms, though they were secretly jealous, and sought to inhabit bodies to experience the fleshly world for themselves. When Bes tried to dethrone God, about a third of the angels rallied to his side, but they were defeated by the Angels of Light, and cast out of heaven. Having made their choice, these angels now condemned themselves to existence in the Darkness, forever. Though holy people say God would have forgiven them, their choice corrupted their nature, and any offer of repentance they greet with scorn and derision. Once fallen, Bes and his devils engaged in a desperate attempt to remake the world and populate it with creatures of their own. But all their efforts came to naught, as their creatures all turned out stillborn, deformed, or cursed to live outside the life of the Lord. All the serpents, revenants and monstrosities became sworn enemies of humankind, because the path of salvation was denied to them. Though some Seers say God took pity on individual specimens and made salvation possible for them. In any case, since they are creatures of flesh, and still live, perhaps all will find forgiveness in the light of God’s infinite mercy at the end of time. But until the Redeemer came to found his Church as the guarantee of salvation, these demonic creations dominated the earth, and called Bes their Lord, and King of the World. Having failed to remake the world in his their own image, Bes turned to his most devious project yet – the plan to disrupt it by corrupting humankind. At first, he pretended to work with God to fashion them, but all his early prototypes were broken. Then, he snaked his way into the Garden and sought to tempt Achim and Ruta to his side. He succeeded in getting them to eat the fruit of the World Tree, promising them that they would become godlike themselves if the do. But the Lord foiled his plan to let them bathe in the Water of Life and to become like the giants and serpents, and cast them out of the Garden, so they could retain their humanity. Beyond the Garden, they would be beset by devils. It is said that those who fell closest to places of human habitation would be less wild, but those that fell and made their homes in the wilderness would be wicked through and through. Some of them mated with humans, and produced abominations, but God flooded the world to rid it of their evil brood. When Gaal rejected Bes’ offer to rule the world beside him, and in triumphing over death, proved the truth of God’s promise, Bes knew that his days were numbered. He now prepares his minions for the final battle against the divine host before the Church can triumph in bringing the whole world under its purview. He does this by resorting to his favorite tactics – trying to corrupt saintly people, and rulers who espouse the True Confession.
Scripture, Tradition and Priesthood Because God’s truth develops in history, a record of its development, especially as its pertains to the fulfillment of His essential truths, promises, and a clear enumeration of his commandments for the purpose of guiding people in leading a righteous life, is necessary. This record – a collection of writings by people inspired by the Holy Presence, is known as the Sacred Writ. These writings include testimony regarding the process of Creation, the rise of the main branches of the human family, the history of the Kivite people, their laws and regulations, the prophecies of the Seers, and testaments of Gaal’s life and the establishment of the Church. Because they are divinely inspired, the books of the Sacred Writ also contain (as the Church and its adherents attest) the most accurate and relevant account of history from Creation to the resurrection of Gaal. They are also the main source of prayers and rituals of the Church, as well as the legitimate powers of its officiants. They are divided into two parts – the Old Covenant, established with the Kivites, and the New, universal one that serves as the foundation for the Church. The Church does not, however, regard The Sacred Writ as the absolute literal Truth. The Truth as such resides with God alone, and is most clearly expressed in the Creation, rather than any book. Moreover, the words of the Writ must not only be heard and believed, they must be lived and experienced to be understood. Trying to derive literal truth from the words of the Writ is fraught with danger, because Bes is a past master at twisting words to corrupt people. Perhaps for this reason, worshipers’ direct access to the Sacred Writ is often restricted through illiteracy. In a variety of cases, the Truth of the Writ is best expressed allegorically or metaphorically than as a precise statement of fact. For this, people should follow inspired guides whose legitimacy as writers, compilers, or exegetes has been established by the collectivity of believers at Church councils. The attendees at such councils typically are, but do not necessarily need to be, priests, but they can in theory include any person inspired by the Holy Presence, The inclusion of particular texts, as well as the proper understanding of their meaning is evaluated in light of an unwritten Saintly Wisdom, which is passed down from the Devotees of Gaal. Once settled, this Wisdom is regarded as being nearly permanent, for it concerns eternal things (such as the Trinity) that do not change. The Wisdom, therefore, has always existed, and may even be found in a partial or altered form in the rituals and beliefs of the heathens. For this reason, it is not impious to rededicate their temples, rituals or festivals to God, so long as the Church deems them redeemable and useful to the cause of glorifying the Almighty. The priests, in this regard, have no monopoly on interpreting the Wisdom or the Writ. They are merely elders of particular congregations, whose selection must be acclaimed by their parishioners. Their sacramental and incantatory powers do not depend on their own virtues, but the Grace of Gaal, who in truth is the one and only true Priest who mediates between people and the Creator, and may choose to manifest his power even through the ministry of corrupt Church officials. In practice, the power of the institutional Church and its political allies frequently appear to monopolize access to the divine. The Church claims to struggle against such abuses, but often leaves God to deal with their consequences. Church hierarchy As a universal institution, the Church is hierarchically arranged to maintain order. The universal order is sanctified by tradition passed down by Gaal's Companions, who founded churches in far-flung parts of the ancient world. Through the institution of Companionate Inheritance, their successors, called bishops, are imbued with authority that is recognized by priests who minister in smaller locales. The most authoritative bishops are called patriarchs. The handful of patriarchs are collectively regarded as the top leaders within the Church. Other important bishops who preside over the Church in particular lands are called metropolitans. Patriarchs and metropolitans invest new bishops, who, in turn, ordain new priests. The priesthood is further divided into two clergies - white and black. The white clergy constitutes the parish priesthood. By custom, if not law, these parish priests must marry soon after ordination. Typically, priests train at least one of their children for the priesthood, and as a result, the white clergy has increasingly taken on the character of a caste. The black clergy consists of monastic priests, or hieromonks, who devote their life to God in entirety. As a group, they undertake vows of both celibacy and chastity, while ndividual hieromonks may undertake other vows (of e.g. silence, poverty) and restrictions (dietary, lifestyle) on a permanent or temporary basis. A starting character may belong to either the white or the black clergy. However, upon reaching 3rd level, all priests must leave their families and enter the black clergy. Bishops, metropolitans and patriarchs are chosen from the black clergy only. Note that the priesthood, as well as the higher positions in the Church hierarchy, are open to women as well as men. Because God's grace is absolute, they are also open to non-human creatures who commit themselves to God's service. The Saints The Resurrection is the fulcral event in history as the True Confession sees it, and the life of Gaal is the exemplar to follow for all those who wish to recover the divine essence that humanity has lost. But gleaning the character of Gaal from the Sacred Writ or the Wisdom is not easy, as the Redeemer was a complex, multifaceted personality, by having both human and divine nature. Understanding Gaal, and modeling one’s life on His is a lifelong process of devotion, prayer, and righteous action. But this process is made easier by following in the footsteps of others who trod this path. Because He has been followed by so many, the range of his devotees is wide enough to provide guidance to very different people, for Gaal is a universal God. Those who have accepted Gaal’s sacrifice, and have devoted their lives to imitating the Redeemer’s example and building the Church are collectively known as the saints. They have been illumined by God’s grace, and have already been spiritually accepted into Heaven and the divine host, and await the resolution of history that will take place at the Return, where they will fight alongside their Lord. These saints include are not only departed souls of Gaalites, but also angels who remained faithful to God, and Kivite Seers of the Old Covenant. They are not necessarily holy and without sin in their personal lives, but are widely recognized as promoting God’s cause. They are not created by the Church or its leaders, but are simply recognized as such if they have already received glorification from God. Recognition by the Church increases the frequency of the saint’s manifestation to those who seek his or her intercession. Saints that are so honored have the biggest following among worshipers, however, who appeal to them to intercede before the Lord on their behalf. As such, particular areas venerate saints that have little recognition elsewhere. There are certain saints that are unique to Nor’, for instance, but others that are universally revered. Traditionally, the leadership of the saints was assumed by Ib. Originally, he was a human who lived in the age before the Deluge, but because he stood out in righteousness, he was taken into heaven and transformed into an angel. He became the head of the heavenly host, which he lead in battle against Bes and the fallen angels who sided with him. Since the Incarnation, Ib has yielded his place in the saintly hierarchy to the Virgin Kivi, who is now regarded as the Queen of Heaven. Following her are the angelic commanders of the heavenly host, Gaal’s Devotees, the Seers, martyrs of the Church, ascetics, and bishops and priests that have devoted their lives to the struggle against heresy. Saints are also associated with particular monastic orders that are entered into by priests reaching 3rd level. There is a vast variety of such orders, some centered around a particular saint, others focused on the veneration of an aspect of an important saint (such as Kivi’s Veil, or her Reception in the Chantry), or perhaps with an aspect of True Confession theology (such as the Trinity, or the Divine Psyche, which is an aspect of the Divine Presence and the Wisdom). These orders are grouped into several domains, each of which embodies a distinct aspect of divinity, and constitutes the third type of divine energy that is channeled by ordained priests (after their tonsuring).
- Maintenance of the Church until the end of time
- Proselytism to the infidels, and all those who have not heard God's Word
- Upholding the power of the Tsar and God's anointed rulers
Chiliasm and eschatology The concluding section of the Sacred Writ contains a prophecy of the concluding period of history, between the Resurrection and the Return. In brief, it tells of a battle between the saints, led by Gaal, and the forces of Darkness, led by Bes in the form of a serpent. The battle ends with the victory of the forces of light, which results in the establishment of the one thousand year long reign of Gaal and the saints. At the end of that period, Bes returns for a final confrontation, is again defeated, and cast into a lake of fire, while the reign of Gaal continues forever and ever. The Wisdom established by the leading theologians of the True Confession understands the initial battle between Good and Evil as concluding with the Resurrection and the establishment of the Church. The idea that the thousand-year reign occurs after the Return, at the end of history, is regarded as erroneous, as it the notion that the thousand years (chilia) is to be understood literally, and not metaphorically. With His emergence from the Netherworld, death was already cast down, and through the mystery of baptism, the elect are already guaranteed everlasting life in the light of the Divine Presence. The Church is a universal institution incorporating people from any and all nations, thus already establishing the Universal Kingdom, and overcoming the divisions that stem from the failed attempt to build a universal empire at Irem, that sought to subjugate all people to a single temporal power. This view also represents a profound difference with the ideas of the heathens, who say that the gods intend to keep people divided, because their union threatens the gods’ own power. According to the True Confession, people, misled by Bes, keep themselves divided by insisting that the separation of people and God is the normal state of affairs. The Friaziny Empire already makes and Universal Kingdom of spirit possible. That empire will exist until the Final Days (eschaton), provided that its temporal rulers rule in symphony with the spiritual heads of the Church. A Tsar who rules in partnership with the Patriarchs, and does not try to dictate religious policy, is a legitimate ruler in the eyes of God. The Return, when it takes place, heralds the final battle, the Ultimate Trial of all those that ever lived, and the bodily resurrection of all the saints. Prior to that time, those who died without being saved spent time in the Netherworld. This is not a place of punishment, but a shadowy existence in the Presence of God by those who denied him, and who therefore continue to burn with shame and guilt. In the Ultimate Trial, they have a final chance to reconcile, and to join God. The Virgin will pull the veil off from the Garden, hidden since the expulsion, and people will rise from the ground, and reenter Paradise, as the heralds of the Lord trumpet his descent from Heaven, and his entry into the Chantry built into the World Tree, from where he will reign in perpetuity. As flesh and spirit reunite, history comes to an end, and there is no eternal cycle of destruction and rebirth, as in the Old Faith, because the material world, originally created by God, is now saved for all eternity.