“The questions of a million years oppress us. Who am I? Why was I made? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of the universe? Shall I survive after death? Can I be happy? Scientists can only tell us about forces and matter. Philosophers chase each other in circles. None of them can really answer the questions that we really care about. Only Spode has the answers. Follow the Law of Spode, and all shall be clear.”
- - Scrolls of Faith
Amongst the many religious traditions that permeate the Gigaquadrant, few are as important as Spodism (from Radessic espotha, heaven). A religion that first originated (though some claim it has earlier origins) among the Radeon species about a hundred millenia ago, it has since then spread all over the Gigaquadrant, its doctrines and teaching affecting thousands of alien cultures one way or another. Though in the recent years its influence has receded somewhat, it still remains the official religion of multiple states such as the Divinarium or the Mirusian Theocratic Congregation, and a significant minority religion in such empires as the Galactic Empire of Cyrannus and the Delpha Coalition of Planets.
Theology-wise, Spodism is centered around the pantheistic idea that all things are connected through the universe itself, which is deified as the god Spode: everything was created by it, is part of it, and will reunite with it upon death. As such, Spodism prioritises the collective over the individual, and strives to unite all races of the universe into one community. Ironically, Spodism itself is not a united faith: countless sects exist within it, from the radical Ferrics, to the scientifically minded Theorationalists, to the pacifistic Harmonites. However, most Spodists recognise a spiritual authority that stands as arbiter above all sects: before the War of Ages, that was the Clericarch of Vendespode, while today this authority lies in the Grand Synod of the Uniate League.
Whether through the uplifting programs of the Church of Spode, the bloody crusades waged by Spodist fanatics such as Jaharan ae-Zamarros, or through the heroism of Spode's holy warriors during the many conflicts where the faithful were engaged, Spodism is a faith that has left a lasting effect on the Gigaquadrant. Its teachings are known far and wide, and even cultures that do not follow Spodist doctrine per se have often been influenced by its philosophy.
Fourfold Faith of Spodism
Although Spodism is the most commonly used term for the religion worshipping Spode, it was not actually coined by Spodists themselves, but rather by ancient Draconis scholars, and is based on a misinterpretation of Spodist doctrine. This term, as well as the name "Spode" itself, is derived from the Radessic word espotha, meaning heaven: strictly speaking, it refers only to one of the four aspects of Spode, Espotha'Nar the Encompassing. However, as it was this aspect that was early Spodists revered and invoked the most, outsiders would come to interpret it as a name for the whole deity.
The worshippers of Spode themselves see terms like "Spodism" or "Spodists" as inaccurate, but not offensive per se, for they still have the positive meaning of heavenly. As such, most use these terms when conversing to outsiders, for the sake of clarity, even in official documents. Still, amongst themselves, Spodists usually refer to their religion simply as the Faith and to themselves as the faithful. The more mystical Spodist sects use more ancient terms, such as the Fourfold Path and the Supreme Path, referring to the Four Supreme Aspects of Spode.
Radeon Spodists in particular also frequently use the term Masaari, from Radessic mas'ar-i, sworn to truth, to describe their faith. However, this word is relatively recent, and unlike the other Radeon terms, is not widely accepted amongst all Spodists. Usually, non-Radeons use the word Masaari to refer to Radeon Spodism in particular.
Religious historians theorise without end on the origins of the Spodean faith. These debates are almost as ancient as Spodism itself, having started with the theologians of the old Church, and despite all the work of scholars both secular and religious, even after 100,000 years consensus is yet to be reached. One way or another, Spodism started on the Radeon homeworld of Vendespode where thousands of years ago, prophet Alkhear the First received the word of Spode from the divine beings known as the Messengers. Alkhear would then spread the true faith amongst his people, converting the Radeons from their worship of the Ley'har, and record his revelations for the future generations. This is the story from the Scrolls of Faith, but many scholars do not find it sufficient. Many theorise the influence of precursors such as the Isio'Nar and the Rades, both known to have affected the development of the Radeon race and thus, Spodism, while some believe Spodism originated as a natural development of old Radeon religions, such as the Death Cults of Shai, or at least syncretised with them.
Era of One Faith (100,000 BCE - ~40,000 BCE)Edit
“There is only one god, yet all existence is part of it. There is only one heaven, yet all living things walk under it. There is only one Clericarch, yet all Radeon-kind bows to her. There is only one Church, yet all shall heed its teachings.”
- - Seranai the First
Whatever its origins, the beginnings of Spodism as it is known today lie with the action of Seranai the First, unifier of the Radeon race and founder of the Church of Spode. The convention of priests she convened, known as the Council of Surphaelm, brough the many conflicting Spodist denominations on Vendespode under a single state church, with Seranai herself as its Clericarch. Her form of Spodism was influenced both by the more traditional sects on the southern continent of Enara, and by the radical reformists from the northern region of Salveron. It rejected hereditary aristocracy, and strict matriarchal traditions gender roles that characterised the former, yet unlike the latter, it still postulated the importance of a strict religious hierarchy, which in Seranai's church was synonymous with state hierarchy. Understanding that religious divisions were in part responsible for the devastating wars that plagued the planet before her, Seranai was ruthless with those who rejected her vision, and the early years of her reign were marked with great purges against perceived heretics and enemies of the state.
Seranai's Spodism was, in part, an instrument of her power: it praised the state as an incarnation of the Spodist idea of unity in the mortal realm, and hailed her as a holy prophet. Yet many of the more spiritual aspects of Spodism were also brought to order under her rule, such as panentheism, the fourfold nature of Spode, and the reincarnation of all sapient beings. These doctrines, which were previously contested by heretical scholars, were now enshrined in the Seranaic Creed, a list of beliefs deemed mandatory for all Spodists. The Scrolls of Faith were compiled into one single tome for the first time, known as the Canonic Sutras. It was in this unified and purified form - now known as the One School - that the Spodist faith took as it spread to the distant stars with Radeon missionaries.
However, it is obvious that Spodism could not exist for long in such a united state for long. Clericarchs could, with great difficulty, maintain orthodoxy on one planet, yet now that the holy faith was professed on countless worlds by countless species, none could ensure that all would adhere to the One School to the letter. Thus came different interpretations of the scripture, different styles of religious art that defied the canons set by Seranai, and different views on the nature of Spode. Species which were converted to Spodism infused it with their own old beliefs, and as communication between worlds was much less stable back then, their religious systems would then develop independently. For instance, in Mirus, the practice of Spodism blended with religions such as Zaraturaism, with some races such as the Meta-Saur race interpreting Spode not even as a deity, but more as an impersonal goal to reach. Even on Vendespode itself, wealthy clerics introduced loopholes and revisions to sacred commandments, to justify their own sinful acts.
Era of Caesaropapism (40,000 BCE - 2000 CE)Edit
“Let it be known that no faithful shall raise her arms against a Theorationalist for her faith or her rites or her prayer to Spode, unless she damns the name of the Clericarch and the Holy Church. For all faithful are brothers, though their many ways may differ, as proclaimed by Divine Shemaphis in Twilight 20:24:103.”
- - Article 12 of the Holy Charter
Despite its own vices, however, Vendespode maintained the veneer of conservatism, and opposed the growing heresies fiercely. Inhabitants of outer worlds were put out of positions of high station, deemed untrustworthy for their deviance, replaced by Radeon scholars from the capital, who were sent all over the Church to bring the heretics back into the fold. At times, the Church even used force to punish particularily notorious apostates - the infamous Burning of Qabolh is a well-known example of brutality that occured during that period. Nevertheless, tried as they could, none of the Clericarchs could replicate the kind of religious unity that existed during Seranai. Orthodox clerics who spread true Spodism were often dismissed by locals as corrupt and hypocritical, while military interventions only served as further proof for the heretics that their cause was just.
Ultimately, there came a time when the orthodox clergy on Vendespode could no longer maintain a religious monopoly any more. The insurgency on Sanctuarium, during which which the armies of the Church actually lost to the apostates, ended with the signing of the Holy Charter, which allowed Sanctuarians to retain their Theorationalist rites and beliefs so long as they accepted the Clericarch as their spiritual liege. Soon after that, countless other sects all over the Church - Imperion personalists, the Tigris Cults of Dei'Ar, and the countless pre-spacefaring syncretic churches of Spode - pleaded that they be given similar rights and over the course of several generations, received them. Ultimately, the old Seranaic Creed was displaced by the new Creed of Imalith, which reinterpreted certain points of doctrine to allow for greater diversity of views. Some sects refused even this agreement, and declared their own Clericarchies: most were swiftly suppressed, but some managed to gain their independence.
Thus began what is known as the Caesaropapist era of Spodism, characterised by the increasing diversity of theological thought and the transformation of its high clerics from spiritual leaders into more political figures. Vendespode remained an important religious center, but was no longer the place from where religious doctrine was declared: it was merely a primus inter pares, and many sects openly showed disgust with its opulence and corruption hidden behind dogmatism. On the other hand, the Clericarch and their Exarchs retained their wealth and worldly power; as their spiritual influence waned, they could now focus more on their personal domains around their homeworlds. The upper hierarchy of the Church of Spode, as well as of other minor Spodist churches, began to fall to vice and corruption. On the other hand, however, freedom of expression and speech, previously stifled by Vendespodean inquisitors, could now flourish, resulting in many Spodist worlds at the time experiencing a cultural renaissance.
Modern Era (2000 CE - Present)Edit
“To all those faithful who hear me, let it be known that this crown is no longer mine alone. The burden that it carries, of ten thousand Clericarchs before me who wore it, cannot fall upon an empress of but one realm. Let the Diadem of Twilight thus fall from my head and become the symbol of this august body, for it now wields the power of the Divine Throne of old.”
- - Iovera IX upon the formation of the Grand Communion
The end of the Caesaropapist Era was slow and gradual, and historians cannot pinpoint the year when its decline first came into motion. It was a process of parallel regress of the Church's inner regions, which retreated more and more from the outside universe, and the growth of its outer vassals, who sought to assert their own religious as well as political authority. As time went on, many autonomous Spodist churches that previously swore fealty to the Clericarch abandoned even the pretense of loyalty to Vendespode. Some did it under the pressure of foreign powers, such as the Corgel Kingdom, which created its own independent church to appease the Delpha Coalition of Planets. Others seceded thanks to their own ambitions, such as the warlike Missionistus Ministry. Either way, the Church of Spode was slowly, but steadily losing its unity.
The final nails in the Church's coffin were the Jaharani Crusades, a series of bloody wars waged by the Mad Clericarch Jaharan in a desperate attempt to unify all Spodists under one flag once more. While Jaharan had some success in bringing the "wayward churches" under his heel for a decade or two, the atrocities committed by his crusaders did more to divide Spodism rather than unite it. Many races who were previously still in communion with Vendespode, such as the Ankoran, were appalled by Jaharan's brutality and decided to disassociate themselves from his church, while Spodist minorities in foreign nations began to be persecuted as untrustworthy and dangerous. The Clericarch who succeeded Jaharan after his defeat, Telfar au'Jahali, struggled to keep what remained of the Church after the war together, but then came the War of Ages, and Vendespode itself was reduced to a burning ruin. The united Church of Spode was no more.
After the dust had settled, numerous pretenders for the title of Clericarch of all Spodists appeared, such as Tadjamad Althess of the Dei'Ar Theocracy and the leaders of the Mirusian Theocratic Congregation, though most Spodists ignored their claims and remained loyal to their local churches. Meanwhile, the Divinarium, despite being composed mostly of former Church races and claiming to be the Church's successor, rejected the same claim, and its leader, though she was crowned Clericarch, refused extend to extend her authority outside her empire's borders. However, recently, a number of large Spodist states including the Divinarium as well as the Grand Spodist Church of the Bunsen Galaxy and the Monoculian Theocratic Republic, came together under the so-called Grand Communion, agreeing on a number of religious doctrines and forming the Uniate League for political and economic cooperation. The League can be considered to be an heir of some sort to the old Church of Spode, although it lacks a Clericarch, governed instead by the Holy Synod formed by representatives from all its member states.
“All men will die, all lights will fade, all things will end, but Spode is eternal.”
- - A Spodist mantra
For the most part, Spodism is a pantheistic, or, strictly speaking, a panentheistic religion. Spode, the deity revered by the Spodists, is considered to be not just the chief god of all reality, or its creator, but rather reality itself. It is the most perfect, omnipotent and omniscient being in existence, for it encompasses all, and permeates every living and nonliving thing. All matter and energy, all laws of science, Essence and life itself are all extensions of its being and exist by its will. Different religious scholars invented different metaphors to explain such a relationship between the deity and the physical universe: some compared reality to a dream created in Spode's everlasting sleep, while others described reality as the body and Spode as the mind. Either way, this panentheistic doctrine lies at the heart of the Spodist religion, for it posits that all living beings, as parts of Spode, are capable of reuniting with its omnipresent consciousness, whether through meditation and prayer, or upon death. This state of oneness, when one's mind is at harmony with all reality, is considered to be sacred in Spodism, and to achieve it is a path to salvation.
What Spode is, exactly, is subject to much debate, and indeed, many of its interpretations do not quite correlate with the personified god of Earth religions. A superstitious Levenis may imagine Spode as a purple octopus in space, hurling black holes at the unworthy, while a loyalist Corgel will understand it as a metaphor for the laws of nature and societal order. The most common view of Spode is that it is not as much a being as it is a force that binds the universe together. That force can be manifested in different aspects: as Dei'Nar, the creative spirit that shapes universes and sets the laws of nature, as Espotha'Nar, the stream of consciousness from which all individual souls are born and into which they eventually return, as Eola'Nar, the supernatural power that intervenes in reality to ensure that the will of Spode is adhered to, and as Raala'Nar, the primal destructive energy that eventually devours realities. These four aspects are separate, and sometimes even conflict with each other, but all serve towards the grand design Spode has for all reality.
Although Spodism is generally a monotheistic religion, it does allow for the existence of other supernatural beings (to do otherwise in the First Gigaquadrant would be either ignorance or stupidity). However, Spodist theology makes it clear that no beings other than Spode itself are worthy of being called deities, let alone of worship. The Radessic dichotomy of Nar, an epithet for true divinity literally meaning "great", and har, a term which literally means "thing" but is used in a derogatory manner for heathen gods, has been adopted by Spodists all over the Gigaquadrant. Beings such as the Ultraterrestrials or the Essentials are respected as part of the natural order of things, but are exactly that: mere parts of the all-encompassing universal order that is Spode.
However, exceptions exist to this rule: in certain Spodist denominations, especially those which experienced strong foreign influences, there exists another category of deities between Spode itself and har. These are supernatural beings which, for one reason or another, have crawled their way into Spodist mythology and took an inferior, but significant place in it - conflated with the nameless angelic and demonic beings described in the Scrolls of Faith. They are commonly referred to as demigods, although Spodists themselves reject that terminology as blasphemous, describing them instead as important beings. The "demgods" are not actually different from the many other (false) deities per se, but, having a larger role in Spode's design and in the life of the faithful, they warrant a certain degree of reverence. The "important beings" are subdivided into the malevolent Mali and the benevolent Isio.
“Never before had Spode felt so close, so... real. When the force of absolute evil appeared, one was bound to believe that its opposite existed too. At least, we all hoped it did.”
The term Mali, translated as false gods, demons or anti-gods, refers to those gods that actively seek to oppose the faithful and against whom protection is sought in Spode's shadow. To whom this term applies varies from faith to faith. For example, Ankoran Spodism applies to its three Dark Gods, powerful Xi-Ur avatars which have been terrorising the Ankoran since times immemorial; while the Eolanai sect of Theorationalism uses the term for dark ascended beings. Although not worshipped per se, they are feared and even, to a degree, respected: they are seen as an equally important part of Spode's design as everything else, created to test the resolve of the faithful, for them to resist and overcome.
A particularily common Mali god present in numerous Spodist denominations is the so-called False God that Will Come. A belief which seemed to have originated during the Church of Spode's early interstellar expeditions, perhaps borrowed from another religious system, few can actually agree on what this False God actually is, only that he (or she) is destined to one day rise against Spode in vain and usher in a great war in which the faithful would only prevail through great sacrifice. In the past, foreign deities have often been declared as the False God that Will Come to justify wars of conquest, or this belief was interpreted more broadly to refer to the unbelievers in general.
After the War of Ages, many Spodists, especially Radeons, came to consider the False God that Will Come to be the Xhodocto, whose worshippers were defeated by the Onuris Alliance but destroyed the Church of Spode in the process. Many, however, believe that the False God's time has not yet come, and link him (or her) with a prophecy in the Scrolls of Faith referring to "the firstborn raven that devours the stars".
“And so the Isio came forth to Alkhear, from their kingdom of dreams and souls, and spoke: rise. Their violet words became light, and the light became law, for Spode spoke through them, and Spode is law. And so rose the earth, and so rose the sea, and so rose Alkhear, enlightened and free. Twelve violet lights, twelve violet kings, and the Eagle, the king of kings.”
- - Testament of Alkhear the First
The term Isio was first used in the Scrolls of Faith for the angelic beings who brought enlightenment to Prophet Alkhear, agents of Spode in the physical universe. Since then, it has come to refer to supernatural beings who work to serve Spode's design. As bridges between the incomprehensible greatness of Spode and the ordinary mortals, they intercede on its behalf to aid the faithful, and while not truly gods, they are seen as worthy of veneration and may be offered prayers. Outside their formal name, the Isio are also commonly referred to as Spodelings (Radessic Espotha'ali, heavenly children) and Messengers: the latter has become the most common appelation for them in most branches of Spodism.
Much like the Mali, different beings may be given the title of Messengers, and often these beings may not have anything in common at all. Consequently, they may be depicted in different ways. In Masaari Radeon tradition, Messengers are described, alternatively, as "angels of purple light", surrounded by hosts of bizzare creatures, or as "blue-skinned dwarfs who forged life". In cases when Spodism subsumed foreign religions, their former deities were sometimes reimagined as Messengers, and their depictions changed accordingly. For instance, Ankoran apocrypha describe the Messengers as the "five ocean kings", "dark of skin and with eyes like radiant sapphires"; while the Telzoc depicted them as golden-skinned titans riding on the sands of time, while the Gardeili and their member races have the richest pantheon of Isio, having maintained their original believes rather stubbornly in their own ways, and worship a variety of minor deities that they believe are aspects and servants of Spode, ranging from Gods of War, farming, fleets, the oceans and pleasure, numerous sub-cults operating under the main worship of Spode.
The Messengers, especially the original Isio from the oldest scriptures of Spodism, have been a subject of much speculation by Spodist theologians and mystics. Ancient sources describe them both as "forgers of reality by the will of Spode", pointing to them being some unknown kind of Ultraterrestrials or Essentials, and as "beings of earthly birth", "both of this world and of another" - hinting at their mortal origins. A common theory, now accepted in the Divinarium and some other Spodist states, is that the original Messengers are in fact ascended mortals, the "first Spodists" who achieved enlightenment long before Alkhear's revelation and subtly guided him, and then the faithful in general, towards greatness. The appearances of such ascended beings in the recent years, such as Sanktanaar Felaanith during the Second War of Black Fog and Master Br'klakkon during the Andromeda War, have given even more ground to that idea.
Divine is the term used for the Spodist equivalent of saints - virtuous mortals who were exemplars of faith themselves in their life and spread or defended it through their actions. Pious leaders who protected the domains of the faithful, bold missionaries who brought the light of Spode to the distant stars, and brave warriors who sacrificed their lives to safeguard holy places are all those to whom divinehood is commonly conferred. The lives of the Divines, documented in epic poems known as testaments, inspire the faithful, and provide an example for them to strive towards.
In many branches of Spodism, Divines are venerated not merely as paragons, but almost as minor deities themselves. It is believed by many Spodists that, although Divines have achieved enlightenment and are therefore now one with Spode, they neverthless maintain a degree of individuality and remain in the material world to guide the faithful. As such, they can be asked for aid, invoked in prayer and receive worship - sometimes, even icons bearing their image are revered as holy relics. Some Spodist sects take that idea one step further, conflating (some) Divines with the Messengers as "ascended mortals".
Distinct from the Divines is the so-called Dynasty of Prophets. According to the Scrolls of Faith, when Alkhear the First, the original founder of Spodism, saw the bloodshed that would engulf the faithful after his death, he petitioned for Spode not to accept him, but rather to let him return to the mortal world once again to save his people. Since then, it is said, Alkhear has reincarnated many times in different places, appearing in times of need to protect the faithful from their foes and purify Spodism from heresy. Seranai the United, Tadjamad the Defender, Shadilath the Great and Shatlak the Proud were all believed to be these reincarnations: the soul of Alkhear, it is believed, will only be allowed peace when Spodism prevails all over the universe.
“All is connected through the will of Spode, which we must know and enact.
To know the will of Spode, one must know oneself.
To enact the will of Spode, one must serve the good of all.
One must know the will of Spode to enact it, and enact it to know it.”
- - Testament of Divine Arthessa 3:12:1
Spodism's belief system is frequently encapsulated in the Four Truths, doctrines that, according to the teachings of Spodist mystics, are key to understanding the nature of Spode. The presence of these doctrines is sometimes used as a litmus test to determine whether a particularily heterodox sect may even be considered Spodist at all, which is an important question considering how diverse Spodism has become over the ages. Together, the Four Truths create the framework for the Spodist worldview in general, from metaphysics to morality: how the universe works, what awaits one in the afterlife, how society should be structured and what one should do to live a righteous life.
Our of these four doctrines, the greatest one - the First Truth - is the idea of connection. As Spode is in all things, everything in the universe is bound together. No sapient beings exist in a vacuum: from birth to death, they are influenced by the universe around them, and their actions are merely consequences of past events, free will only a miniscule factor in the grand scheme of things that Spode had created at the dawn of time. Since a mortal being cannot change Spode's design, only nudge it slightly with the tiny spark of divinity that exists in all living things, they have to accept it, to understand what Spode expects them to do and act accordingly.
From that idea comes the Second Truth, harmony, and the Third Truth, community. The former is the notion that, in order to understand one's place in Spode's design (and thus live a good, moral life in accordance to it), one must achieve inner peace, and abandon personal desires in favour of what is good for all, and for Spode. Though meditation, prayer, and discipline, one moves closer and closer to that state, until their soul would be pure enough to rejoin Spode upon death. The latter is the idea that society itself has to be restructured for the common good, to promote piety and the expansion of Spodism to other places. To only seek personal salvation is selfish: one has to aid others in achieving it as well.
Finally, from the Second and Third Truths one derives the Fourth Truth, action: the notion that one's faith must always be complemented with deeds for one to achieve salvation. Spodism is not the faith that demands simply to believe: belief in Spode is meaningless if one does not work to do what it intended them to, to help others and to spread Spode's word. Of course, no good works will help an impious man: balance has to be preserved between perfecting one's faith internally, and expressing it externally.
“There is order in all things.”
- - Testament of Divine Daevloth
As pantheists, Spodists make no distinction between the matters of theology and cosmology. Since Spode is in all things, reality itself is divine and perfect, filled with natural order so complex it is impossible for mortals to comprehend it. Driven by Spode's grand design, expressed through the laws of reality, it naturally creates ever greater forms of order: stars, planets, living organisms and, finally, sapient beings, given minds akin to that of Spode itself. These beings are, in turn, also blessed with the same drive towards order, and create societies, nation-states and empires. However, unlike the perfect order of Spode, the structures they create are limited by their limited understanding of reality, which is why mortals must adhere to Spodist morals, so that their natural constructive impulses would go towards the right purpose.
Despite the belief in the ordered universe, Spodists recognise that its constructive forces are limited, and eventually give way to chaos. Living things die, kingdoms fall, and stars themselves eventually go supernova and vanish from the sky. This is seen as another part of the universal order: more specifically, an obstacle to be overcome. To struggle against death and chaos, to delay their coming and to accept the end when it finally comes, leaving behind a lasting legacy, is the purpose of mortals. This universe - which is but one of many in the greater multiverse - too will die one day, but from its cold carcass, another universe will be born, which too will eventually die, and so on again and again forevermore. Thus, while chaos may have minute victories, order triumphs in the end, for reality - Spode itself - will always remain constant, simply manifesting in different universes and different lives.
According to Spodist doctrine, all sapience comes from Spode: the souls of mortals are merely tiny fragments of its vast sentience embedded in their minds that grant them free will. Upon death, this fragment makes its way back to its origin, the endless stream of consciousness that forms one of the four aspects of Spode, Espotha'Nar. From this point, there are three possible fates. Some souls are found pure enough to reunite with the stream, thus becoming one with Spode and achieving absolute inner peace. A select few retain their individuality in this stream and sometimes leave it to intervene in the mortal realm - that is the fate of Divines and the Dynasty of Prophets. However, the vast majority of souls are too mired up in personal desires to be able to rejoin Spode, and are plunged back to reincarnate in new bodies.
On top of this basic idea of the Spodist afterlife, some sects have also developed their own beliefs about it. Many scholars cite the passage in the Scrolls of Faith that reads "reincarnation itself is the judgement" and believe that those who were virtuous but not virtuous enough to rejoin Spode will be rewarded in their next lives. Jeharians, for example, believe in parallel universes in which virtuous and sinful mortals reincarnate: akin to heaven and hell, except their inhabitants do not reside there forever. On the other hand, Theorationalists reject the idea of such parallel worlds, citing lack of evidence both in reality and in scripture, and believe instead that the virtuous simply reincarnate in positions of higher social standing. This belief has long helped maintain order on the center of Theorationalism, the totalitarian world of Sanctuarium. Sometimes the afterlives of other faiths are also somehow integrate into this system of reincarnation: Telzoc fanatics, for example, believed they would reincarnate in their next lives as time warriors in the Sequential Realm.
The holy scripture of Spodism is referred to collectively as the Omnicanon, and is comprised of three primary sources. The first one, and the most important one, is the Scrolls of Faith, a series of writings containing key Spodist teachings on cosmology, morality and enlightenment. These are the oldest holy texts of Spodism: they were supposedly gifted to Alkhear by Spode during his revelation, hundreds of thousands of years ago, but some of the sutras may be even more ancient, retellings of the oldest Radeon myths dating to their race's birth. Their old age means that over their long history, to the Spodists' fear, innovations and changes may have crept in, through mistranslations or dishonest clerics. As such, only a small part of the Scrolls of Faith, known to be authentic and free from changes, is deemed acceptable - known as the Canonic Sutras - while the rest is called the Sutras Apocryphal and deemed unreliable. There may be wisdom there, but they cannot be truly trusted.
However, even those parts of the Scrolls which are seen as reliable are poorly understood by most. Many of the metaphors and terms of its language elude the understanding of modern Spodists, for they exist in the context of an ancient culture alien to today's spacefaring races. As such, reputed Spodists scholars have been writing the so-called Explications, books which help interpret the Scrolls of Faith and apply them to the modern world. Each sect has their own version of the Explications, which often interpret the scripture in strange and at times contradictory ways. An odd idiosyncrasy they have is that disregarding the interpretations of older previous scholars is considered taboo and is rare: instead, new scholars would come up with interpretations of these interpretations, often completely transforming their meaning. As a result, the Explications may bloat to thousands of pages filled with debates and contradictory explanations of scripture, and clerics will spend decades to understand them all.
The final third part of the Spodist Omnicanon, considered to be the least important, is the Testaments or the Recited Testaments: hagiographic texts describing the lives of Divines and prophets. Usually written in poetic form, composing Testaments is an ancient art, and require the author both to stay true to the actual lives of the holy men and to spin the story in an exciting way, to inspire the faithful. While not scripture per se, the Testaments are to be consulted on the matters of morality, as Divines and Prophets are seen as sources of emulation. The most famous Testament is of course that of Alkhear the First, which exists in numerous versions as penned and recorded by various authors.
While Spodism does not have a proper priesthood in the sense of performing holy rituals, the scholars of the Scrolls of Faith fulfill a similar role: it is them who are usually called Spodist priests, although they are best described as religious lawyers. They lead the faithful in prayer, organise confessions and maintain temples: they also resolve conflicts between the faithful in accordance to scripture. Higher-ranked scholars, who have spent decades memorising the holy texts, are given more authority: they interpret sacred law, act as judges, decide whether certain activities are moral or not, and may represent the Spodist community to foreigners where they are the minority. Above all stand the Theosophians, the wisest of the wisest: the only scholars allowed to add to the Explications. They hold great authority, and in many Spodist nations have become the ruling caste, leading the faithful as philosopher-kings.
In addition to scholars, some Spodist sects may also have ritualists who help in performing rites and maintaining the temple's ritual purity. They prepare and handle the anointment oils, cleanse the dead, and keep the altar fires alight. Sometimes the temple priest will perform these duties in addition to their usual tasks of a scholar, while in some sects, this role is given to their spouses and children (celibacy is rarely mandated in Spodism, and is in fact frowned upon as a distortion of natural law). Often, the tasks of a ritualist are given to a specific caste of "spiritually pure" individuals, usually youths, who may also serve as apprentices to the temple priest. There are also sects who reject ritualists altogether, in which case laymen will perform the holy rites by themselves.
Monasticism in its purest form is frowned upon in Spodism: since all life is interconnected in Spode, to seclude oneself from the outside world is considered to be a sign of selfishness, not virtue. Only a few Spodist communities, such as the philosophising Saqqarit who escaped the rest of the Gigaquadrant out of fear their intervention could bring unforeseen consequences (as it eventually did), have ever been truly monastic. However, Spodism has a similar but distinct tradition of itinerancy, where Spodists wishing to purify their souls will take vows of poverty and chastity and travel the universe to bring the light of Spode to others. Some of these travelling monks may eventually settle up in a monastery on a faraway planet, often a primitive one, where they would work to feed, teach and heal the locals in need, while others will continue wandering, spreading the faith everywhere they go.
Often, instead of taking a vow to simply help the children of Spode and spread the truth, monks would also pledge to fight the enemies of Spode, or to protect certain communities or holy places: thus were born the many Spodist military orders, such as the Dei'ar and the Missionistus. Thus were born the Spodist military orders: organisations of holy warriors spreading the will of Spode through force of arms, answering to no leader but Spode itself. Much like the ordinary itinerant monks, they may either continue travelling the universe, fighting the enemies of the true faith whenever they find them, or settle down on a planet and become its protectors or even rulers. In the past, military orders contributed greatly to the spread of Spodism and were a major player in the politics of the Church, but their influence has diminished in the recent years: many have been killed to a man in the recent wars, while some, like the Dei'Ar, have been integrated into the military forces of various states. Still, some, such as the Missionistus and the Templars, have survived to this day.
Two chief rites are present in all Spodist sects throughout the Gigaquadrant. The first is the Rite of Birth, which, despite its name, is not limited solely for the newborn, but for any new converts into the religion, which are said to be "born again". During the rite, the convert is placed before the temple's altar and doused in aromatic herbal oils, while scented candles are lit around them and the priest chants mantras from the Scrolls of Faith: the exact composition of the oils may differ from sect to sect depending on the materials at hand, but strong aroma is key. This practice is believed to have originated back on ancient Vendespode, where it served the purely practical purpose of clearing the body from Ley'har spores.
The funerary Rite of Death, on the other hand, is simpler, but more symbolic in nature, and reflects the Spodist ideas of balance and harmony that retain their importance even in death. The body of the dead is first bathed and then cremated (traditionally on a pyre, but now usually in a crematorium): in other words, water, representing life and inner growth, is used alongside fire, the symbol of destruction and purification. Thus, the rite symbolises the conflicting parts of the soul coming together in death, and the hope that the dead will either reunite with Spode or reincarnate in a better world. The ashes of the dead are then placed in urns, which are buried in crypts alongside those with whom they were close in life. If cremation is impossible or impractical, the dead can be simply buried instead, or even be given a sky burial, but such practices are not widespread.
Outside these two chief rites, there exist many other ceremonies and rituals which are present in one branch of Spodism or another. Particularily common are rites dedicated to repentance, but since no common tradition for it was estabilished in the Scrolls of Faith, repentance may take different forms. In some sects, they are strictly private, while in others sins are confessed collectively during public sermons, with the priest often being the first to confess while their flock follows in their example. Often, the Rite of Birth would be repeated upon adulthood as a kind of coming of age ceremony, except that it would be the Spodists themselves, rather than the priest, who would recite the holy mantras - such a tradition is present amongst the Monoculians. In other cultures, coming of age would be celebrated by pilgrimage to holy places, or even to other worlds - Ankoran, for example, would travel to other Spodist planets to learn about the traditions of their fellow believers.
Spodist tradition distinguishes between "prayer of service", which show obedience to Spode, and "prayer of aid", invoked when in need of divine help. The former is considered to be an obligatory show of piety and is performed daily at dusk (or at dawn - theologians argue whether the timing of Spodist rituals, devised by the nocturnal Radeons, should be reversed for diurnal species or not). Although described as a prayer, it has more in common with meditation: it consists of clearing the mind through chanting mantras from the Scrolls of Faith, so that the Spodist could realise their insignificance before the universe as a whole and their humility before Spode. Prayers of aid, on the other hand, are not meant to be asked frequently. Spode's design is seen as unchangeable and perfect: to ask for a different role in it is seen as selfish or even arrogant. For this reason, divine assistance is asked not directly from Spode, but from Divines and Messengers, seen as more open to the pleads of the ordinary faithful.
Ancient Spodists generally shunned religious festivals; what few important holidays they had they celebrated in a very reserved manner, without pomp and festivity. In part that was an extension of Spodist collectivist ideas: no single person was remembered, only the works of many, and no day in particular was important compared to the eternal flow of time. In part that was done to squash the remains of the Ley'har faith, where hedonistic festivities in honour of the gods were commonplace, often accompanied by cannibalistic feasts, sacrifices or mass orgies. The only festivals accepted during that time were the Day of the Prophet, which celebrated the enlightenment of Alkhear the Great, the Day of the Dead, a remnant of the old cult of the death goddess Shai, and the festivities associated with the New Year and the start of spring.
However, as Spodism developed and spread, often subsuming foreign religions and their traditions, the policy of the clergy on religious festivals became more lax: new festivals emerged, dedicated to Divines and Messengers, while festivals which already existed began to celebrated in a less solemn manner. Often these developments were criticised by the more conservative clerics, who believed that such festivities distracted the faithful from Spode, and to this day some Spodist sects such as the Radical Theorationalists treat religious festivals with disdain. Others were more open, seeing the festivals as a way to strengthen the communal spirit of the faithful. The most popular Spodist festivals include:
- Four Glorious Days: more of an extension of the Day of the Prophet than its own independent festival, the Four Glorious Days mark the four days Prophet Alkhear spent in a near-death state in the jungle as he received his revelation from the Messengers. Fires are often lit during the four days, symbolising Prophet Alkhear burning the Ley'har to prove they were not gods: burning dragon-like effigies is also sometimes practiced.
- Founder's Day: also called the Daevlothia, this Theorationalist holiday is dedicated to Divine Daevloth Aertha'in, a Theorationalist leader who led the first pilgrims to settle on Sanctuarium. Though it was not originally celebrated widely, as Theorationalists shunned both public festivities and saint worship, this holiday was essentially reinvigorated by Sanctuarium's human population, who syncretised it with their own traditions and turned it into a festival of gift-giving. In this form, the Daevlothia spread throughout the Divinarium and even found minor acceptance in other Spodist nations.
- Festival of the Interwoven All: originally conceived by Bunsen mystics, this holiday is dedicated to the Spodist idea of connection and involves making physical contact with a variety of things from distant places to symbolize the interconnectedness of everything in the universe through Spode. The more zealous believers ingest things or touch incredibly dangerous things to show their devotion.
While Spodist religious art may vary in form - different sects may prefer sculptures, icons, or abstract ornaments - its meaning is always the same: expressing the ideas of order, virtue and the connection of all things. As such, artistic canons in all branches of Spodism are ultimately very similar. Rigid, geometric lines, repetitive, sometimes fractal-like ornaments, eyes and tentacles of Spode and intense contrasts between dark and light (representing balance) - these motifs can be seen on the robes of Spodist priests, on prayer rugs, on icons and on the walls of temples. Realistic depictions of living beings are often avoided, and statues and images of Divines and Messengers frequently depict them in a stylised, but striking manner. On the other hand, Spodist religious art is rich in symbolism. Meaning can be found even in the smallest things: fourfold knots painted on stained glass evoke the holy number of four, while the jagged meander on the temple floor represents the Dynasty of Prophets.
Particularily important to Spodism is the art of temple architecture. Here as well the diversity of the details coexists with the uniformity of the basics, for though external architecture may vary greatly depending on the period, inside the temples remain the same as during the days of Alkhear. The main prayer hall in the temple is either circular or, rarely, semicircular, usually with a massive dome symbolising the heavens, although sometimes the hall can be open-air like an amphitheater. An altar-like platform, often decorated with a symbolic image of Spode, is placed at the center of the hall, for the priest to lead prayers and sermons from; rites of birth are also performed there. A small room to the back of the hall serves as the sanctum, containing the temple's copy of the Scrolls of Faith and ritual oils, while the rooms to the side are decorated with icons and may be reserved for personal prayer. However, the structure of these smaller rooms is less regulated by canons, and they may even be omitted for smaller temples. Only one more part of the temple has the same importance as the prayer hall: the spires that crown the temple, used for calling to prayer. The number of the spires may vary, but each plays a symbolic role. For instance, a temple with four spires (the holy number) symbolises stability and the Four Truths, three may represent the drive towards perfection, while one stands for the glory of Alkhear the First.
Considering how widespread and ancient it is, it is no surprise that Spodism is divided into countless sects and branches. Different scholars may have different views on the four great doctrines, on the nature of Spode and its relationship with the universe, or on the interpretations of the Scrolls of Faith. Species which used to follow other gods before their conversion to Spodism may infuse it with their old traditions, and whether these traditions have a place in the faith or not is another great point of contention. In the days of the Old Church, missionaries would sometimes travel so far that they lost their way home, creating Spodist communities that evolved in isolation for thousands of years, such as the Pazumiri faith. All these factors contribute to the diversity of Spodist beliefs.
Of course, there have been attempts by rulers and Theosophians to somehow purge the true faith from schismatics and end all divisions of the faithful. Every now and then, an overzealous Clericarch would send inquisitors all over the Gigaquadrant, or a charismatic preacher would appear, intending to return Spodism to its original pure state. Yet of all these proponents of unity, none ever succeeded, and mostly only created even more schisms and sects. In the end, many Spodist scholars have realised and accepted that Spodism will never be united, and now believe that sectarianism is its natural state, and may even be encouraged. Perhaps absolute truth is simply not for mortal minds to comprehend, and rather than making Spodism weaker, division strengthens it, as the faithful from different sects debate and engage in interfaith dialogue to achieve deeper understanding of Spode.
Spodist sects can be classified in different ways. Often scholars would simply divide sects by their place of origin: thus, we would distinguish the Radeon Masaari Spodism, the Bunsen Pazumiri Spodism and so on. However, most Spodist theologians reject this method of classification. While a Radeon temple on Sanctuarium may have similar domes to a Radeon temple on Borealum, the teachings preached in these two temples would be completely different, and a Sanctuarian Radeon would find more in common with a Spodist Sader than with his Borealic cousin. As such, Spodists themselves promote instead a classification of Spodism based on doctrine, of which five are considered to be the most prominent.
The term Classical Spodism refers to all denominations that remain fully loyal to the original Seranaic Creed as it was practiced at the dawn of the Church of Spode. Primarily practiced by Radeons from the Old Church's central sectors, it also encompasses a number of alien races that historically maintained a close relationship with Vendespode, such as the Imperions, as well as some species that were converted by ancient Classical missionaries, remained isolated for generations, and were then "reintegrated". Historically the largest Spodist sect, Classical Spodism has taken a major blow after the War of Ages devastated the Endless Space, its historical center, and is now eclipsed by other sects such as Theorationalism.
To this day, Classical Spodism maintains, even if in modified form, the same interpretations of scripture that were devised during the early days of the Church, with all their idiosyncrasies. Its scholars spend years studying Old Radessic just to be able to read the Classical Explications, let alone understand. Detractors decry Classical Spodists as dogmatic and hypocritical, blindly following the words of long-dead scholars and using them to justify their own sins. They, in turn, retort that their reverence for ancestors has allowed them to stay free from religious wars and schisms that plagued other churches.
One way or another, Classical Spodism values history. Its ritual is rich in complexity and ceremony, dating back to the ancient Enarans, and full of seemingly meaningless traditions that, as Classical Spodists insist, are actually full of symbolism. Its temples are adorned with gold and marble, and arcane symbols cover the robes of its priests, who chant the Scrolls of Faith in an ancient dialect that noone fully understands. Divines are greatly respected in Classical Spodism and ascribed supernatural power, while the role of Messengers is considered to be less important.
Although Classical Spodism is tightly knit and does not tolerate schism, it is still not a monolithic faith. Outside the widely accepted Radessic Rite, there exist a few distinct Classical rites with their own minor divergences in traditions and beliefs. Particularily widespread is the Imalithian Rite, which is notable for its greater emphasis on Divines, depicting Spode in an anthropomorphised manner, and lavish religious sculpture. Other widespread branches of Classical Spodism include the Yeharian Rite and the Pazumiri Rite.
About sixty thousand years ago, an astrophysicist and scholar of the Scrolls of Faith by the name of Jarithan Aertha'in allegedly received a revelation from Spode in the depths of hyperspace, telling him to save the true faith from its decadent clergy. Thus inspired, he penned sixty four treatises known as the Jarithani Heresies, in which he criticised and disproved the dogmas of the Old Church. Classical Spodism, he argued, had become mired in superstition and corruption, their interpretations of the Scrolls twisted by generations of self-serving clerics. New interpretations had to be devised, to bring modern Spodism closer to its original pure state - but this time, based on the laws of reason. Only by reading the Scrolls rationally, by providing rational explanations to the phenomena described in it, could one see the true design of Spode.
Although Jarithan was soon burnt for heresy and denying the divine right of the Clericarchs, a number of sects were inspired by his teachings: clandestine cults who practiced their rites in underground catacombs, gathering during the day when all other Radeons slept. Thus was born Theorationalism, the mechanical faith of scholars that imagined Spode as a great universal machine. Persecuted for their beliefs, Theorationalists spread all over the Gigaquadrant as the Church expanded, fleeing from the Clericarch's inquisitors, and would eventually estabilish a large community in the Milky Way Galaxy, centered around the selenopolis of Sanctuarium. As fate would have it, it was this community that survived the War of Ages relatively unscathed, while all other Church worlds had to face the Xhodocto: as a result, Theorationalists are now the majority among the Radeons and in the Divinarium. Outside their communities, Theorationalism is also practiced by the Sader, by Secularist Monoculians and a few other species.
Theorationalism postulates the innate harmonic perfection of the universe; as Spode is absolutely pure, they argue, it cannot defy the laws of its own creation. Its followers therefore reject any supernatural miracles, the worship of saints, and the unnecessary pompous religious ceremonies. Theorationalism is highly austere, functional, and above all, practical. There are almost no religious holidays outside of the daily prayers and weekly recitations of the Scrolls of Faith. Worshippers are supposed to prove their faith not by long meditations or nights spent in prayer, but by adherence to the tenets of Masaari in their daily lives. Honesty, austerity, and hard labour for the community of fellow believers is what brings one closer to harmony with the universe.
The greatest points of contention among different Theorationalist sects are the interpretation and application of divine law, whether more complex rituals and ceremonies are allowed or forbidden as idolatry, and, finally, how the supernatural elements of the Scrolls of Faith should be explained. Some sects interpret such events as, say, the rebirth of prophet Alkhear in a maelstrom of purple light, or how Divine Shemaphis brought forth a comet upon the unbelievers, as mere fiction, while others consider them to be extremely unlikely coincidences. Other, more esoteric sects, known collectively as Nunciary Theorationalism theoretise that Radeons were not the first race to realise the inherent unity of all things, and that some foreign force with similar beliefs, acting in the interests of Spode, guided them throughout history. These sects are not very numerous and usually viewed as nothing more than odd new-age cults, though one particular sect, the Eolanai, has risen to prominence in recent times through one of their more famous followers.
Spodist mysticism is not a denomination of Spodism per se. Those described as mystics by outsiders would often identify themselves as members of mainstream Spodist sects, such as Classical Spodism or Harmonite Ecumenism. They simply choose to dig a little deeper, to find the true meaning of doctrines that ordinary believers barely understand, and in doing so, achieve harmony with Spode and shorten their path towards salvation. For that purpose, Mystics practice various physical, mental and spiritual techniques that, as they believe, allow them to purify their souls and strengthen their connection to the universe.
The history of Spodist mysticism is long, and some Mystic brotherhoods claim to trace their origins back to the days of Prophet Alkhear himself. Most are small and enclosed, and rarely accept new initiates, although larger brotherhoods also exist, especially when a large Spodist military order practices the same form of mysticism. Some are strictly monastic, and shun the outside world, only coming to ordinary mortals to provide them with charity. Others allow their followers to continue on with their daily lives, only gathering near sunrise to practice together. As for the practices of Spodist mystics, no uniformity exists there at all. Other then the fact that Essence usage is often learned, very few universal traditions exist: Spodist mysticism is always in the process of evolution and change, and different techniques are invented every day.
Among the most prominent mystic brotherhoods are the Tigris Cults, so named after their former holy world of Excidium on the edge of the Tigris Galaxy. The founder of the cults, Aethandari the Wise, believed that the greatest enemy of the faithful was emotion, which drove mortals to do irrational, selfish things and distracted them from Spode. Thus, his followers have learned to suppress their emotions through rigorous physical as well as mental training, only letting them free during special rituals known as the Soul Dance. The Tigris Cults are very martial in nature, and their followers believe that combat purifies the soul: as such, they have closely integrated themselves with many Spodist military orders, most famously the Dei'Ar. Indeed, a Tigris Cultist on a battlefield is a terrifying sight: a cold-hearted killing machine that fights with calculated precision, never losing their cool even while plunging bayonets into the still-beating hearts of the enemy, only to fly into a berzerker rage when it suits them, letting their pent-up emotions go at last.
Yet the Tigris Cults are not the only well-known Mystic brotherhoods in the Spodist world. Andromeda Galaxy in particular is full of them: this galaxy, after all, is filled to the brim with the supernatural, and may hold keys to the origins of Spodism itself. The Radessites, a Spodist branch of the Rades Cults, seeks to emulate the spiritual teachings of the Rades, viewing them as the "original Spodists". These precuror worshippers often change their own bodies with Rades biotech, to clear their souls of sinful thoughts and their flesh from sinful urges. Also native to Andromeda are the Sisters of Alkhuse, a sisterhood of female Radeons who have honed their psychic potential to such a point that their very minds meld together in absolute harmony. Other important Spodist mystic brotherhoods include the Anointed and the mysterious Adherents of Lud'nev.
The first Spodists to call themselves the Ferrics (Radessic vaelati, men of iron) appeared around the same time as the Theorationalists, during the Old Church's early forays into the stars. The discoveries brought by interstellar expeditions, first encounters with alien species and the changes in culture caused by rapid technological development stirred the hearts of many believers, but whereas the Theorationalists chose to embrace progress, the Ferrics feared it. The author of the Ferric Doctrine, Haera ae-Shemaphis, came to believe that modernity itself was inherently damning. If new technologies could perhaps be of some use to the faithful, then any social changes - democracy, sentient rights, freedom of speech and religion - were to be radically rejected. The only salvation from the blinding light of progress lied in returning to the dark ages, and recreating the society of ancient Spodist kingdoms.
This was how the most fanatical and violent form of Spodism came into being. From back during the days of the Old Church, the Ferrics were known for their religious intolerance: even the moderate, legal Ferric sects avoided the company of other Spodists, seeing them as infected with the plague of modernity, while the more radical sects would go as far as to kill any trespassers coming to their settlements. Towards unbelievers, the Ferrics were even more brutal: immediately upon encountering new alien species, their colonists would force them to convert to Spodism, and, if they refused, burned them alive like Prophet Alkhear burned the Ley'har. Fortunately for the rest of the universe, the Doctrine would never become widespread, as their xenophobia and fear of technology made it hard for them to gain new converts.
Then, after sixty thousand years, the teachings of the Ferrics would be discovered by noone else than Jaharan ae-Zamarros, back when he travelled the Gigaquadrant in search of enlightenment. Somewhat intrigued by this ancient attempt to preserve the purity of Spodist faith, something which he himself aspired to, he visited numerous Ferric communities scattered all over Church spaces to learn from their holy texts. The Ferric Doctrine inspired Jaharan, and many Ferrics were in turn inspired by him, seeing him as a reincarnation of their founder: they became his first followers, and the backbone of his army. He would reinvent the Doctrine in his own image, making it more open to technological progress, more organised, and even more violent. It would become the state religion of the Church under Jaharan, and billions of sentients would be converted into it, willingly or by force, over the course of his bloody crusades.
Even today, centuries after the fall of the Blood Clericarch, the Ferric Doctrine retains many followers, although it has become splintered as a result of his actions. The Proto-Ferrics, descendants of old pre-Jaharan sects, remain in isolation, avoiding the outside world even more now that the one they thought to be a messiah failed. Meanwhile, the Neo-Ferrics, mostly descendants of ordinary Spodists converted by Jaharan, are still loyal to his version of the Doctrine, and strive to continue their lord's great mission while awaiting his reincarnation. Out of these, Moderates, such as Laurinn Ma'fest and Successors of Mas'asi, seek coexistence with other Spodists, while Radicals like the Phemsarsa still refuse peace and continue waging war against all outsiders. It is the actions of the Ferrics that have created the overall stereotype of Spodists as violent zealots: followers of other Spodist sects often hate them with a passion, although many believe that the fanaticism of Ferrics is useful in times of war, and tolerate them for that reason.
Although ecumenical and syncretist movements have existed in Spodism for thousands of years, it was only during the Jaharani Crusades several centuries ago that the Harmonites crystallised as an independent branch of Spodist faith. In many ways, it was a response to the horrifying atrocities committed by Spodists in that period. Seeing Jaharan and his Ferrics kill so many innocents in their struggle to protect the true faith from the "unbelievers", many in the Church have come to think that the very idea of separating themselves from "unbelievers" may have been wrong to begin with. When Jaharan's regime fell, they argued, it became clear that Spode did not approve of religious hatred. Instead, the faithful had to open to other faiths, to understand their doctrines and to find common ground between them, thus enriching both Spodism and its rivals.
The scholars of Harmonite Ecumenism interpret the passage from the First Sutra of the Scrolls of Faith, "all who walk under the shade of Spode know its soothing cool", to mean that all major faith in the universe, from Quadrantian Atlanticism to the Pantheon of Drakon, are, in one way or another, divinely inspired by Spode. Of course, their holy books may not not hold the whole truth, but neither do the Scrolls of Faith - as sacred as they may be, they were revealed to a primitive species, who could not comprehend Spode's design in its entirety. Instead, Harmonites believe that every religion holds some kernel of truth, however small, in its teachings. Only when put together, like pieces of a puzzle, can these small kernels create the full picture of the divine. For that purpose, Harmonites must engage in interfaith dialogue, so as to better understand the faiths of others, learn from them, and in turn also introduce them to the wonders of Spodism.
In general, when studying a foreign religion, Harmonites would first view its cosmology through Spodist lens, seeing a Spode analogue as well as those figures that could be interpreted as Messengers. They are especially interested in other monotheistic religions, such as the faith in the One God, in whose deities they see Spode as it was revealed to other cultures and species. After finding equivalent deities, Harmonites would then explore the belief system of this religion, finding those ideas that resonated well with Spodism and would enrich it: by absorbing them, they would move one step closer to the ultimate truth. Willing to accept foreign beliefs, the Harmonites are as eager to adopt foreign traditions: while maintaining the overall Spodist meaning, Harmonite religious art often bears influence from neighbouring cultures. For instance, a Cyrannian Harmonite may pray in an open-air shrine, rather than in a closed church, although said shrine's pillars will still be placed like walls in a true Spodist temple, and the Harmonite will still cant the same holy formulas: they are still Spodists, after all.
Thanks to its ideas of tolerance, Harmonite Ecumenism is practiced by many cultures and individuals all over the Gigaquadrant: in some states, it may even be the only form of Spodism that is legally allowed to be practiced. It has been the state religion of the Ankoran Empire since their departure from the Church of Spode, as well as the dominant form of Spodism in the Mirusian Theocratic Congregation. In the Draconid Imperium, Harmonite Ecumenism is practiced by the official Imperial Masaari Church, the only Spodist sect free of the Grand Inquisition's religious regulations: it treats Drakon, the patron deity of the Imperium, as another aspect of Spode. Amongst the more famous individual Harmonites is, of course, Clericarch Telfar himself, who is probably responsible for popularising ecumenism after the Jaharani Crusades, as well as a few other important religious figures such as Kazari Selfar.
“We follow the path of truth.”
“Can someone tell me why they're praying to one of us?!”
- - A common Tahar in an argument
“An interesting religion...I feel that with the current position the Zazane are in, we may just take this up...”
- - Tyraz
“This faith promotes community, spiritual enlightenment and willpower and discourages ego and selfishness. It has my blessing.”
- - Archcleric Torlonus of the Cult of Drakon
“WAT DA HELL MAN HOW DA HELL CAN ANY DUMBO BELEEV DAT”
“A way one can interpret the extradimensional spirits whom are involved in this universe. A very good practice, but one that been known to cause bad things in past”
- - Tuolog
“Where will you Spode be as your world lies desolate from the most holy powers of our lord Khuaviiraahz?”
- - Overlord Kranov
“People ask why Faith is important... In these dark times, with war raging around us... Every single shred of hope is important, and Faith in our beloved God gives us that. What is the nature of Faith? To believe in a better tomorrow, for He will surely deliver it.”
“May the Light of Spode guide you!”
- - Common Quadrantia Radeon saying
- The most common symbols for Spodism are the eye, the lozenge, the saltire cross and, rarely, the thorns. The eye, of course, represents Spode's all-seeing eye observing the universe, the lozenge and the saltire represent the Four Aspects of Spode, while the thorns, inspired by the appearance of the Ley'har, represent the power of Spode.
- Although Spodism does not actually have any sacred animals - animals are rarely ascribed any symbolic meaning at all in the Scrolls of Faith - it is commonly thought that its sacred animal is the octopus. This has come as a result of a misunderstanding: the common Spodist symbol of an eye over a curved, swastika-like saltire, apparently inspired by the image of the Milky Way Galaxy as seen from Vendespode, has been interpreted by newly converted species as an one-eyed octopus. Some Spodists have embraced this misunderstanding (the octopus is a fairly noble animal, after all) and now depictions of octopi are sometimes incorporated into Spodist iconography.
- Spodists commonly use the term "Cycle" (referring to the cycle of reincarnations through which all life goes) in offensive context, similarily to how humans may say "go to Hell". Saying "to the Cycle" implies both a threat of death and the hope that the person in question will endure the worst reincarnation possible.
Out of universeEdit
- Spodism is one of the few concepts brought over from the original Spore game to the Fiction Universe, where it is the religion practiced by Zealot empires. It is as old as the Fiction Universe itself, with Spodists mentioned as enemies of the Delpha Coalition of Planets and the Cianju Alliance as early as in 2009.
- The first time Spodists were shown as protagonists was in early 2010, when the Radeons and the Church of Spode were first integrated into the Fiction Universe. It is for this reason that the Radeons are currently considered to be the first Spodists in-universe (although this was not always so: in older concepts, the Rades and the Isio'Nar practiced Spodism before them).
- The author of the Radeons, theImperios, was also behind most Spodist beliefs in the Fiction Universe, such as pantheism and the belief in reincarnation. However, other users who created their own Spodist empires, such as CaptainTybusen and Groxkiller98, had made their own contributions.
- The Imperios was inspired to work on Spodism by his interest in real-life religion and religious history. Spodism would come to be influenced by ideas from real-life religion that the Imperios found somehow intriguing, such as nirvana in Buddhism, vilayat-e faqih in Shi'a Islam, the Catholic religious orders such as the Jesuits, the Confucian and especially Mohist concept of Tiān , and even by the traditions of the Imperios's native Eastern Orthodoxy. Spodism's pantheism was also heavily influenced by Baruch Spinoza's Ethics.
- The out of universe reason the saltire is often used in Spodist symbolism it is because it is the symbol of Saint Andrew the Apostle, which the Imperios believed to be his patron saint. Turned out he was actually named after another, unrelated Saint Andrew, a Russian prince who was not crucified on an X-shaped cross. At least Andrew the Apostle is still the patron saint of the Imperios's home country, so the reference still makes some ense.
- The original conception of Spodism was very different from its current state. Originally, Spodism was simply a monotheistic religion, and Spode one of the many (very physical) deities in the pantheon of the Fiction Universe, alongside Volzara, Kkia'Sihm, Kamik-Shi (the currently retconned god of the Xhodocto, who used to be much weaker), and the Flame. It was also inspired more by Abrahamic religions, especially Islam and Catholicism. Later on, different concepts were introduced and scrapped, such as Spodists suppressing their emotions, Spode being the hive-mind of ascended beings known as "Spodelings", and the whole religion being a sham created by the Isio'Nar. The current incarnation of Spodism has mixed all the older versions of Spodism, explaining them as being different sects of the greater religion.
- Also of note, while Spodism has always been part of the Fiction Universe, it did not always have that name. The Imperios never particularily liked the sound of the word "Spodism", and tried to replace it, usually with the term Masaari (inspired by the Masaari Statue). However, it turned out that most users still called the religion "Spodism", and treated Masaari as a term for Radeon Spodism in particular, so the Imperios kind of gave up and started using the term as well.