Week 44, 2019
The prevailing mode of cognition afflicting the masses was this: The simple belief that desire was the cause of all suffering.
This was the principle teaching of the Imperial schools, preached with fervor among the worlds.
The faithful were reminded of this daily, with the encouragement to give up their hopes and thoughts for themselves, to accept their station in life and expect nothing in return.
The pain of hunger and of thirst were merely the result of the desire for life.
The majority of people were able to do just this. They led unremarkable lives, and against that backdrop those who resisted stood out, producing the most riveting dramas for the Collective and its Continuum to absorb.
Suffering as punishment, was apportioned with surgical precision and insidious delight, targeting both the ordinary deviant whose activities were caught by the Imperial police, as well as special victims chosen by the Observers and the Continuum for the flare their narratives would bring.
The special victims were unsuspecting people, by and large, guilty only of thought crimes, or speaking out in private against the system of beliefs and the rubrics of the empire they lived under.
The people were taught that every moment of joy was temporary, only to be experienced as respite from a state of perpetual loss, all of which was orchestrated as preparation and testing for a state of blessedness to come, in eternity.
The rituals they enacted reinforced the ever-present belief that the struggles they endured were meant to encourage self-abnegation, and the erasure of the will.
They were taught to surrender.
The prevailing philosophy was this:
Pain is necessary and purgative, both as penance for sin and as a preparation for holiness. This sentiment was embedded at every level, in every ritual of the Imperial Cult.
This is not to say that every moment of a person’s life was filled with pain, for pain to meaningful it had to be regulated, interspersed by moments of relief and happiness.
This teaching was reinforced in alternating and successive waves of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain through the human experience.
The experiences were different in every caste, but the ultimate message was this:
There is no safety or security for the living.
Among the plebians, the people hoped for material wealth and comfort, for rank and prestige, worked to the point of exhaustion for the smallest gains, and routinely saw those gains stripped away.
The soldier wanted victory and glory, they wanted to experience the pleasures of the flesh after combat. They were almost universally short lived, encountering death and disease at every turn.
Among the priestly class there was the quest for power and control. They were consumed with the endless drama of their dynastic ambitions.
Above all, the priest wanted to be elevated to the realm of eternal life, to become one with the Continuum.
Priests routinely sacrificed everything they held dear to achieve these ends.
Their proximity to power made them easily corruptible
Suffering was life, moments of pleasure were structured to be brief, they were teaching moments, with periods of joy manifested as random, intermittent and spontaneous events.
Joy was the ephemeral thing, perpetually floating in the middle distance, tantalizing, always slightly beyond the grasp of the individual.
Everyone wanted to advance in rank and every person knew where they stood, the ranking of the citizenry was one of the many vehicles by which the Empire controlled and suppressed the population.
Everyone knew exactly where they belonged, and who had to be eliminated, or appeased in order for themselves or their family to advance in rank.
The Empire used the ranking system like a bludgeon.
The social standing of the individual, of every single family, of each village and every last planet was used to control the flow of people, of goods, of ideas and even hope.
There was no comfort in rank, only shame, no matter how exalted you might be on your own world, your entire planet was subservient to someone or something else.
The figures of rank were known, including the complex algorithm that coordinated caste, planet, class, locale, family, and individual status.
Every person was expected to adhere to the system. In public places, even small breaches of etiquette were recorded and punished.
The figures of rank were broadcast. Everyone knew where they stood. The algorithm was ever-present, in constant use as a governing tool managing every social interaction.
There was no chance that even a random encounter with a complete stranger would result in a situation in which those present did not know who was called to deference.
Very little policing was required. The people managed each other and all of their interactions with a jealous zeal.
No matter what your Imperial rank, the focus of society was always directed to what a person lacked, rather than what they had achieved.
There were trillions of citizens in the Empire, spread across a million worlds, each and every one of them was conditioned to be joyful, but joyful only in the fulfillment of their duties, in the satisfaction of their role.
They were not. Whatever joy they expressed was a merely an illusion they felt compelled to put on display.
This was the purported purpose of the Imperial Schools, and the stated aim of the Imperial Cult.
These aims and goals were utterly meaningless, and the Empire failed completely to meet these ends.
Keep the eyes of the citizen focused on the daily tasks.
Keep the citizen obsequious and churlish.
Keep the citizens in a perpetual state of anxiety and terror.
Keep each person producing goods and service to feed the endless hunger of the Continuum.
The Empire succeeded in those goals.
The Empire processed the mineral wealth of planetary systems, sweeping asteroid belts, capturing comets, crushing whole worlds for their ores, their carbons and their silicates, sending them on massive barges to the central planet.
It was tribute.
The Continuum used that wealth to grow the physical structures that housed the Collective.
In the Imperial cult, the principle of selflessness was taught as the single most important aesthetic to live by.
The concept of personal honor was completely tied to the notion of giving.
Selflessness was imagined as the only possible way for a person to escape from the material conditions that oppressed the living, governing the daily lives of every person.
The goal of the living was freedom, a freedom which they imagined existed only beyond the veil of life.
People sought absolution of self for the sake of the greater good, believing that all evil and injustice originated in the appetites of the body.
They were taught to repeat the universal mantra, the echoes of which resounded for them as a constant refrain, desire is the cause of all suffering.
The abnegation of desire, kenosis, the emptying of the self, this was at the core of every prayer, of every oblation.
Freedom from the illusory conditions of the living world could only come about by the dissolution of the self.
This was the bath of salvation, metanoia the conversion of personhood into a self-identification with the whole.
There could be no peace without it, the esteem of one’s peers depended completely on the ability to perpetuate the illusion.
It was a dichotomy.
The people were conditioned to defer to authority, their perseverance depended on it.
Everyone looked up to those in the higher castes, or to a person of higher rank even within the same caste. They were conditioned to defer to that authority, regardless of how sound its practices and judgements were.
If a person from a higher caste or of greater rank ordered you to something against your will, even if it was immoral or illegal, your duty was to obey.
A general would defer to a novice priest.
An old man would defer to a child, even to the point of laying down his life for him, they would voluntarily suffer extreme forms of abuse, torture, even a threat to their family.
This system created great drama.
The people were conditioned, they acquiesced both from fear and from covetousness, because they wanted those same powers for themselves, and they believed that the path to possessing such power meant submitting in the face of it.
They looked to obedience as the path to self actualization.
The system destroyed them all.
Crimes could not be concealed, they were always discovered and punished, but only when the moment was right, when it would create the perfect drama for the Continuum to orchestrate and pass on to the Collective for its consumption.
A person might be allowed to get away with crime for decades, only to have it all catch up to them at the peak of their ambitions, or in the ultimate depths of their turpitude.
There was no justice.
Everything was artifice.
The teaching of the Imperial Schools and most importantly the great religion of the Imperial Cult, its dogma and rituals, all of its spiritual practices colluded to persuade the people into the complete subjugation of their will.
The spiritual goal as stated was for the individual to rise through every station of life, over the course of trillions of lifetimes, to ultimately be released from the wheel of life for the return to eternal source of all being, and self-annihilation.
It was a journey to nothing and nowhere.
Every link in the great chain of being must be connected.
While submission was the constant rule, the promised reward for lifetimes of servitude was the hope that you would be accepted by the Collective, absorbed into the Continuum, made into a Godlike being, given rulership of your own planet with absolute authority and complete security for eternity.
What was promised was antithetical to what was expected in practice. This dichotomy was understood and presented to the faithful as an essential mystery.
Faith and trust were the conditions that must be met in order to advance.
The Continuum examined the conscience of each person to measure their faith, their willingness to be absolved, their readiness for absolution, these conditions must be met, and be met perfectly before the individual could be accepted, and thereby exalted.
The individual must be measured against every possible temptation, only then could they be allowed to pass through the veil.
In the practical reality of daily life, it was easy for a person to see failure all around them, they were taught not to judge those above them in rank, but to merely accept the mystery that they were engaged in.
Judgement was nearly impossible to avoid, and corruption was rampant in the higher castes.
It suited the Continuum to advance the individuals who were the best exemplars of this tradition into the membership of the Collective, every one of them strengthened the Continuum’s hold over the whole.
Part Six, The Empire
Chapter Forty-two, Fear
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
#Emergence #ShortFiction #365SciFi #OneChapterPerWeek
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