Dionysos (Psi 5 Aurigae II)

 
  I've been searching for the truth behind
What the prophets have sealed
So exotic every faith I found
And beyond my ordeal
There's a very attractive appeal
I've been deep inside the human mind
-
Vacuum, Pride in My Religion

We have given you, O Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation, select, these same you may have and possess through your own judgement and decision. The nature of all other creatures is defined and restricted within laws which We have laid down; you, by contrast, impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at the very centre of the world, so that from that vantage point you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine.
- Oration on the Dignity of Man, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

The Temple of Dionysos is the most famous example of the renaissance architecture. Soaring, stepped walls covered with hanging gardens; graceful pillars of ultracomposites refracting the light from the water flowing through the temple, frescoes and mosaics depicting the beauty and pleasure of nature and the central pleasuredome built by Jeremiah Donaldson, at the same time light, huge and intimate. The fame is well deserved. Still, the old videos of the celebrations here in the 2220ís clearly show that these days the temple has become more of a tourist attraction rather than a Dionysian temple. The orthodox Dionysians have moved back to nature, celebrating their orgies in the traditional clearings while leaving the Temple in the hands of the more Epicurean edenists.
- Jonathan Ellis-Khayama, Interstellar Diary



History

Jerusalem was colonised by the United Christian Association, an alliance of several American Christian fundamentalist churches. During the 2040ís the backlash after the failed Second Coming 2035 was making them proclaim that the Earth was corrupt and doomed to have Satan run the place freely, but the faithful could be saved by travelling to the new Jerusalem. The UCA organised the mission, and launched Ave Deo in 2047. It arrived to Psi 5 Aurigae in 2165, and they christened the second planet Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem colony quickly ran into trouble as different churches began to quarrel. Dividing the main colony into several villages was not enough, and in 2167 open violence resulted. The Ecumenical Council seized power, persuading, cajoling or forcing everybody to accept their authority. The Council instituted proctors to guard the colony and keep the faithful safe. Gradually a theocratic society developed, where the Council ironed out doctrinal differences. Strict punishments and group pressure were used to keep everybody in line, and most people not just accepted this but found it necessary.

It was the second generation that began the revolution. Various psychoactive substances could be found in the crown ecologies of the Jacob trees, and illicit use had been spreading despite strict punishments for discovery. A few of the users began to celebrate what they regarded as Dionysian rites in the secret clearings, and the practice spread. The Dionysian movement worshipped life, the enjoyment of the world and throwing off all restrictions of Jerusalem. As the proctors found out, they cracked down on the pagans. But resistance grew, and more people joined the movement (including many Christians, the edenists, who embraced the view that this was Eden and intended to be enjoyed). As the situation developed, the Dionysians armed themselves, began to sabotage Council operations, free imprisoned members and generally act as a guerrilla. In 2199 push came to shove, and after a violent attack against a demonstration for religious freedom the Dionysians attacked the proctors and Council. After a fairly bloodless coup they were in power, although the situation in the colony was chaotic. They proclaimed religious and political freedom, and began to dismantle the technological control apparatus of the Council. Many of the hardcore fundamentalists retreated to the Sinai valley, where they formed new communities that persist to this day. The central colony, now renamed Dionysos became a stronghold for the hedonist movement.

The decades after the coup were the Dionysian renaissance. Art, pleasure, technology and society advanced with leaps and bounds, optimism and creativity flourished. The colony grew and changed, despite occasional conflicts with the Sinai communities.

Eventually the original Dionysian movement began to loose its lustre. It became bogged down in routine, addiction problems and forced enthusiasm. The young began to strive for greater authenticity, and many took inspiration from the various orthodox communities around them. An interest in mysticism and psychology spread, and in the 2250s the basics of psychodesign were developed: mental techniques combined with drugs and therapy allowing people to modify their personalities, values and views at will. Not only that, the neuropsychology of religious conversion and mystical insight was understood.

This discovery turned out to be surprisingly disruptive to the colony. When values and personalities can be changed, what is certain? What to base society on? While most of the Sinai communities ignored the situation, among the young doubt crept in. Some Dionysians revelled in it, regarding this as the total freedom. Others wanted to keep psychodesign within reasonable limits; a society cannot work if people change personality too freely. The early 2300ís were a time of confusion, conflicts and warring ambitions, often called the "Big Mess". In the end things settled down. The "tixotrophs", radicals who espoused free personality and value modification remained, but as a small minority. The rest, including many former orthodox, regarded psychodesign as useful and healthy, but only when rationally considered. Social norms of how to handle self-transformation evolved, and it became a natural part of life for most.

When contact with other colonies was achieved in 2345 Dionysos was revolutionised. New technology, new ideas flooded in. The fundamentalist-censored archives had forced researchers to make plausible deductions, but now they could finally be checked against the real thing. In a flash millennia of terrestrial culture, history and science became available. The Dionysians have overall become enamoured with outsider cultures, and many speak of a second renaissance.



Society

Since values, personality and even the body can be changed, the only truly unique thing about a person is his experiences. Hence experiencing new things is the key to true personal growth, the rest is just tools for this experience. If somebody intrudes on somebody elseís experiences, he limits or forces the other person Ė each person must be allowed freedom to change his consciousness, but not to change otherís without their permission. However, it is possible to trap oneself in a static state (e.g. by becoming rigidly religious, trapped in bliss or psychosis) and for this the rule must be changed. The "psych police" (an organisation directly overseen by the colony council and independent from the ordinary police) is allowed to modify otherís mental states without their consent, in order to bring a trapped person to a state where he can think about his situation in a flexible, rational way. While this works well in practice (the psych police mainly help addictions, cases of erroneous psychodesign or self-reinforcing memes), it leads to some problems when dealing with the fundamentalists: are they to be modified so that they can come to understand the full image of their religious views and lives, or should they be left alone? There have been many debates over this, but the general consensus is that the psych police should only deal with the citizens of Dionysos proper, trying to convert everybody would become a never-ending crusade.

Modern Dionysian society is dominated by a mainstream with strong Dionysian-edenist leanings; they are not actual believers but have a semi-religious appreciation of life. Most people undergo gradual psychodesign to become "fully themselves", generally rational, pleasant, social, stable people, and quick changes to suit the situation. There are minorities of fundamentalist Christians, orthodox naturalist Dionysians who dislike psychodesign and the tixotrophs, most of which live in isolated communities. Mental techniques are common, ranging from selfhypnotic modifications to building daimons, semi-independent subpersonalities that can act in parallel with the main person. People often change names to better suit their present selves, and have nicknames others use when referring to them.



Organisations

The Edenist Church is the largest Christian group on Dionysos. They have combined the hedonistic/neopagan ideas of the early revolutionaries with Christianity. The church is fairly informal, with congregations led by local preachers and a bishop representing the church elected by the preachers at an annual meeting.

The Orphic Society is the academic/professional society for psychodesigners and related groups has a significant power. It is among other things responsible for setting ethical standards for psychodesign (a highly nontrivial process in a fluid society like Dionysos) and educating new psychodesigners (most undergo first medical school or basic psychology studies, followed by some years of psychodesign education and practice). Over time it has accumulated many odd ceremonies, like any other academic association.

Pan Interstellar is a newly formed interstellar trade and travel company, owned by several other Dionysian organisations and companies as a joint venture. It is trying to establish regular communications with Babylon, passenger services and trade (especially for new drugs and experiences).

The Psych Police is an independent force not dealing with crimes but with mental states. Their purpose is to prevent people getting stuck in bad mental states, insanity and addiction. For this reason they regularly audition all Dionysians, checking their state and often placing them in a rational, objective mode of thinking where they can evaluate their lives. The Psych Police consists of psychodesigners and counsellors, but is strictly independent of the Orphic society.

The Desert Dancers is a movement of nature-mystics who have moved into the remote northern deserts to commune with "God-nature". They employ many traditional means of altering consciousness such as fasting, meditation, prayer and exhausting dancing, eschewing all forms of psychodesign except an "initiation" into the movement. This initiation has made all memebers psychologically very similar, nearly mental clones of each other.

The Tixotroph Fluid is the "organisation" of the tixotrophs. They live in their own enclaves and settlements, where they indulge in unrestricted psychodesign. Tixotrophs change so much and so often that it is hard to speak of individuality among them; they are somewhat isolated from the rest of society and not very trusted. The Fluid is however an important source of uncontrolled psychodesign services (to the irritation of the Orphic Society and Psych Police), as well as various more bizarre entertainment.

The Jesurun are the remaining orthodox Christians in the Sinai Valley. They are clannish, hostile to outsiders and generally want to be left alone. The valley is a plain farming community, with a few small factories and robot hives to sustain it; most of the time nothing ever happens. Despite (or maybe due to) this, occasionally zealous young men commit acts of sabotage or terrorism against the devil-worshipping sinners outside their valley. In the community the preachers and Elders are the power; preachers spread the holy word and act as supervisors, while the Elders oversee the health of the entire community.

The Grail Keepers guard Grail Lake, a crater lake in the equatorial drylands where iron oxide turns the water blood red. The lake is an oasis in the desert, a perfect circle of crimson surrounded by lush vegetation. The UCA colonists saw it as a sign, a symbol of Christ's blood, and built a major chapel on the shore. Today the lake is still viewed as sacred by the Dionysian religions, both Edenists, Dionysians (who see it as a symbol of the lifegiving blood/wine of Dionysos) and even the Tixotrophs (who see it as a symbol for the "human liquid" of changing identities). This has led to several conflicts, as especially the Jesurun see it as blasphemy to allow other groups access to the sacred water. Formed after the Easter Attack in 2259, the Grail Keepers are an ecumenical order instituted to guard and protect the lake, trying to negotiate access for everyone.



Style

Some of the Edenists prefer total nudity, but most Dionysians are clothed. Light, practical but ideally extravagant or personal in some way, be it an expensive cut, feathers or producing some fragrance. While drugged clothing was popular some years ago (and still given to visitors for the fun effects) it is rather uncommon these days.



Language

Adam

A skilled and sexual man. Positive term, the counterpart of Lilith. ("Adams and Lilithi" is the Dionysian version of "Ladies and gentlemen")

Asmodeus

Somebody with a haughty, arrogant or otherwise unpleasant personality. Either very bad form, a Belial or a strong style statement.

Babylon

The rest of the universe. Originally a negative term, today a positive term among Dionysians.

Being horned

Being active, in control of oneself.

Belial

A daemon that has destructive effects on the owner.

Book of Life

Oneís experiences.

Carnalization

To place somebody in the here-and-now, usually by drugs, sex or pain, to remove abstract thinking.

Cassia

Pleasantly smelling (but not narcotic) herbs and substances.

Death Forward

Changing so much that one becomes essentially a new person, loosing whatever made the original person unique. Common among the Tixotrophs.

Demon, Daimon

Independent subpersonality

Drunk

Intoxicated with drugs (not necessarily just alcohol)

Flowering

When the landscape blooms. Widely celebrated (a bit like the Japanese cherry blossom festival). Also used to denote when psychodesign, the environment and a person "latches together" to create fantastic performance.

Efod

The traditional linen clothing worn by psychodesigners and the psych police. Used to denote signs of authority.

Eternal Joy

Traditional greeting among orthodox Dionysians and edenists, regarded as old-fashioned by most people, who shorten it to enjoy ("Enjoy! Great to see you Ė how is the fishing these days?").

Gratias

A synthetic drug which induces an undirected feeling of gratitude in the recipient; used in some Edenist eucharists.

Happy Harry

Somebody with a permanently cheerful and positive mood.

High Priest/Priestess

The leaders of Dionysian rites.

Hosanna

Common greeting

The Jesurun

The Sinaitesí formal name of themselves. Means the righteous people.

Kalmus

Stimulant extracted from certain saprophytes in the highest trees.

Loveapples

Aphrodisiac prepared from a variety of psychoactive substances. Common gift in the form of small "apples" with sexual drawings.

Lilith

A skilled and sexual woman. Positive term, the counterpart of Adam.

Milk and honey

Food and drugs, things that are not necessary for survival but for a pleasant life.

Mindstyle

Ones style of mind, like preferred personalities and values.

Myrrh

Local drug, extracted from the sap of some tree species. Used in salves or smoked; the effects are not unlike terrestrial marijuana or opium depending on the species.

Nazarene

Christian

Nasir

Somebody who has devoted oneself completely to something. Originally religious zealots, but also used for people who due to psychodesign develop obsessive personalities. Slightly derogatory.

Orphean

Formal term for psychodesigners, often shorted to Orf ("Whatís up, orf?")

Possession

When a demon becomes a dominant personality.

Rebirth

To either start with a new personality, or a very through and deep cleansing.

Tixotroph

Somebody changing personality and traits so often that they are nearly fluid. Generally regarded as overwriting their Book of Life.


 

Population

Population: 779,941. Life expectancy at birth: 112.1 Earth-years.


 

Currency

Shekels (3000 shekels is one talent, Ĺ shekel is one beka and 1/20 shekel one Gear).


 

Timekeeping

The day is 28 earth hours long, divided into 12 daylight and 12 night hours of variable length. The year is measured in the Earth way. The year is 349.65 days long (1.12 Earth years), divided into 12 29 day months and an extra "holy weekend".


 

Symbol

A wine branch. The Edenists sometimes use a cross surrounded by a circle of wines and grapes.


 

Planet

Dionysos orbits 1.09 AU from the star, with a year of 1.12 earth-years or 349 Dionysos-day.

Dionysos has a 4473 kilometres satellite (named John the Baptist / Pan) in a 700,000 kilometres orbit. There are 12 other planets in the system, named after the evangelists / astrological signs. The sun is alternatively called Christ or Eros.

Dionysos has a diameter of 11,291 kilometres and a density 1.1 times earth. The gravity is 0.955 g, the day 28 hours long (generally handled by a long siesta). The axial tilt is 31 degrees, making seasonal shifts strong.

Just 30% of the surface are water, major deserts, mountainous plateaus and savannahs dominate the rest. In the northern deserts there are several major craters and crater lakes from meteor impacts. There is significant geological activity in some areas, such as the dramatic Backbone Range separating the Orpheus and Silenius seas and the earthquake-prone Tigris rift valley. Near the north pole the Northern Labyrinth spreads out, a huge canyon field several thousand kilometres across. Most ocean lies on the southern hemisphere in a series of linked seas surrounding the continent Eden where most of the colony is located. The colony is located on the eastern shores of Eden, where it meets the Bacchus sea (formerly known as Genesaret), around 30 degrees south of the equator.

The temperature varies much between summer and winter due to the uneven distribution of land and high axial tilt. During summers the colony experiences persistent hot dry winds from the northern deserts; many go to sea islands to escape the heat. In the winter moist southerlies bring rain to the northern deserts and the blooms become even greater. Along canyons and in other places where mountains or hills block them, the winds can become tremendously fierce and form small storms remaining in place for weeks. Especially famous are the Valley of the Jinn, a monumental valley where a cliff produces a long series of dramatic dustdevils that dance along the length of the valley for most of the late summer.

The linked southern seas stretch out to the north along the Tigris onto the great northern plains. During the northern winter the Iceswamps freeze and the Dry Sea dries out, becoming an immense salt desert. As the northern summer arrives, the Iceswamps remain frozen and block the water from the south seas from reaching the Dry Sea - until they break up and in a matter of weeks the basin is flooded. This causes noticeable and irregular shifts in sea level across Dionysos, as well as making the Tigris even more risky to sail - in addition to earthquakes and persistent storms there are huge bore waves during the icebreak season. The Tigris opens into the Uriel Sea at Heaven's Gate, a place famous for the dramatic storms and tidal waves than fight each other.

Biology

Life in the desert and mountain areas has evolved to be hardy, conserve water and protect them against the sunlight. Most plants are spear-like or bulbous, often covered with a resilient shell and glassy thorns. In the fertile lowlands a profusion of plants grow, everything from a mossy-grass analogue to the Jacobís tree which can reach a hundred meters of height and forms banyan-like complexes with each other. At regular intervals the whole landscape blooms, commonly regarded as holidays for the Dionysians. The forest ecosystems are very rich, although most of the life exists in the treetops. Here saprophytes grow, many of which are psychoactive in humans.

Most animals are four-limbed with tiny central bodies covered with featherlike hair. They range from the microscopic to sizes up to the 30-meter behemoths of the northern canyons. Flyers exist with flaps between the limbs, and tree-dwelling social species ("angel monkeys") dominate the lowland forests. Angel monkeys are social animals; blue, furry and very curious, if territorial - if somebody approaches their nest they will climb above the intruder in the trees and begin a bombardment of their excretions or hurl various branches at them. Their intelligence is not far from small terrestrial monkeys, but there are many stories that they have behaved much smarter. Another famous but interesting animal is the Tigris erupter, an unusual predator that hides beneath the water and jumps into the air with long tentacles to catch flying prey.