1. RELIGION IN THE FOURTH EMPIRETHE RISE OF NATURISM AND MANRALIANISM
During the Third Empire, State Theism had been the only permitted religion, and adherence to its tenets was a sine qua non for everyone in governmental and political circles. After the collapse of the political set-up of the Third Empire in 750, State Theism fell into disrepute amongst thinkers and intellectuals. The establishment, however, as well as many ordinary people, continued to hold to it; it remained the faith of the Emperors, and was used, to start with, at all State functions. It was outwardly changed quite a bit, however, to conform with the new political realities of the Fourth Empire. In particular it was divested of its authoritarian formalities, and was no longer regarded as a branch of the Government which had to be submitted to by the whole population of the Empire. To reflect this development, it was renamed "Theism", rather than "State Theism".
There were other religions around, however, often celebrated in secret, and these came more and more to the surface as the eighth century wore on. The most important ones were basic Naturism and Manralian Naturism, which after the 740s became the greatest religious rivals of Theism. Pure Manralianism was also of growing importance later on. Basic Naturism, it will be recalled, proposed the emulation of the life and beliefs of the Yalland sage Gestil. He had taught that man was basically good, above all when he obeys his natural instincts and lives close to nature, and as nature intended humans to live. In this way men and women (he treated both sexes as completely equal in the sight of God and Nature) would also become close to God. Gestil was actually fairly agnostic about the nature of God, although he believed in a "Creative Demiurge", and conceived of the presence of God all around us and in every thing in the world. But he also repeatedly stressed the value of each individual soul, the innate goodness of which could be improved by identification with nature, good values and behaviour. He also taught a form of eternal life for the self, virtually repeated reincarnation, which he emphasised in the Yalland language by the adoption of a special form of the first person, the "eternal I". This could not be easily assimilated into Atlantean, and the doctrine itself was not much emphasised.
Subsequently, two aspects of Gestilís doctrine, originally muted, had come much more to the fore, and by the 700s were integral to Naturism. These were a belief in personal reincarnation, and an almost pantheistic attitude to the divine. These two beliefs seem at first sight opposed to each other, but rather like modern Hinduism, Naturism managed to combine them. It claimed that while an underlying divine essence pervaded the whole world, it was strongest in living beings, and especially in humans where complete souls were formed. In fact there is visible here a surprising influence from the Romantics of the 500s, in the doctrine that God or the Divine Principle is most reachable and most effective within our own individual natures. By being and acting ourselves, with complete naturalness, we are bringing ourselves closest to God. But whereas the Romantics stressed the importance of the will and the deed in this respect, the Naturists laid more stress on the passive side, on our character and inner development.. Human souls, thus partaking of the Divine, could be reincarnated repeatedly, not necessarily as humans or even in this world. About 760, this doctrine was stressed in Atlantis, by the adoption of a special ending for first person verbs, corresponding to the Yalland "eternal I". But oneís aim in life should be to seek goodness, and do this by identifying and empathising with all the rest of nature, within which was the spirit of the Divine. The Genandourso philosophy of the Third Empire also had its influence here, with its stress on personal serenity and openness to the Divine. This faith, with its stress on the goodness and perfectibility of people, its basic simplicity and lack of ritual, its freedom from the constraints of the State, and its teaching of the basic equality and value of every individual, met a great need in the lives of the population of the Empire after the elitism of the Third Empire and the horrors and upheavals of the Great Continental War.
Manralianism had spread gradually throughout the Empire since the early 600s, but it was as a variety of Naturism, that it was initially most popular. This Manralian Naturism was based on original Manralianism, and featured the same idealism and belief in an Absolute. However, Manralian Naturism was more pantheistic, and looked on this Absolute as God. It also watered down original Manralianismís belief in the complete indifference of the Spiritual, and claimed that the Absolute, which underlay all Nature, was essentially benevolent, in a general fashion. On the other hand, this faith, like true Manralianism, had no idea of reincarnation, or of the value of the individual soul to God: after death, human souls were reabsorbed into God or Nature.
THE "BATTLE OF THE FAITHS"
From around 750 till 780 these faiths - Theism and the two sorts of Naturism - existed side by side. Theism, as the older religion, and the one still connected to all "official" events, was seen increasingly as an old-fashioned or dated faith, clung to by an older or more traditionally minded generation, which included the lower classes, and many in the governing circles. Naturism, largely the original version, seemed to be the faith of the future, being the religion of many of the younger generation, those in the middle ranks of society, as well as the intellectuals and liberals. It was called the religion of the democratic age, as this Fourth Empire was increasingly being called the "Democratic" Empire. Of course this implied that Theism was the mindset of old authoritarians.
In fact the contrast between the two faiths was drawn even more widely, as between two different ways of looking at life, or two divergent moral outlooks. Theism's adherents believed in the reality of Evil, and the objective reality of moral standards, which have been laid down by God for all time. It also laid more stress on the value of each individual soul, and claimed that these would survive death and join God, who was seen as something of an external Force. He could be contacted by prayer and praise from this world, but we shall not come to know him truly until we have died.
Naturism tended to ally itself with the opponents of these ideals, who considered that good and evil were social constructs, which would vary in different societies and in different eras. Moreover moral standards were subjective matters, which were determined by societies. In reality the belief in the subjective nature of all moral codes was more truly held by the increasing number of agnostics of the period, and by many philosophers, but it was not in fact true of the Basic Naturists, who believed in a fixed moral code: it had to be found inside the human heart or in nature, admittedly, but this did not mean it was subjective, or individualised, but rather, it would be found to the same the world over. Naturists, in their opposition to the old regime, nevertheless were rather too ready to forget these points when it suited them, in order to ally themselves with agnostic and atheist liberals, who proclaimed that Theism and all such beliefs in objective values were faiths whose time had passed. Manralian Naturism was particularly close to scientific atheism, while the real heart of basic Naturism lay in a pantheistic feeling of oneness with the world and nature, and the immanent presence of God, and a vaguer belief in constant reincarnation after death.
As the years passed, the two types of Naturism grew further apart, and became more inimical to each other. A new wave of believers in "real" or original Manralianism also arose in the 760s and 770s, who despised the Manralian Naturists as betrayers of the true faith. Finally the split came in 775, and Basic Naturism became Naturism as such, while Manralian Naturism adopted the traditional name of Manralianism, and became far more of a semi-atheistic philosophy, than a religion. Most importantly, it denied the reality of the individual soul, or self, to speak philosophically. It, rather than original Naturism, now became the faith of the time, and the companion of science, tending to deny humans the consolation of any meaningful form of personal transcendence outside this life.
In 780 the Emperor Tuoldon famously resigned rather than abandon his belief in Naturism, and in 784, his successor, Lirinna declared that an Emperor's beliefs were personal to him or herself, and he or she need not be a Theist. (Nevertheless the "official" religion of the Fourth Empire remained Theist, and all State religious ceremonies had to be celebrated in Theist style, even if there were other religious ceremonies as well. In fact the next three Emperors/Empresses until the take-over by the Tyrants were all agnostic or atheist, and official Theist ceremonies, although they continued, grew more and more perfunctory.)
Thus the "new" liberal thinking won the day. More and more educated people had now become agnostic, and held materialist views, and often the fashionable beliefs in pure determinism and the relativity of all moral values. This can also be seen in the growth of other religions and philosophies in this period. The Brotherhood Faith, which developed after the 780s and triumphed in the period of the Tyrants, was not a religion but a worship of the State and the Juralic Race, as well as of complete self-expression for the Individual. Every "significant" person, (really this meant every Juralic, particularly one in a position of authority), was allowed to create and follow his or her own morality, ignoring any religion or previously accepted social or moral code. All "lower" mortals had to do exactly as their superiors, i.e. the State told them. This linked in to with later developments in philosophy such as the atheistic determinism of the 790-800s, and the amoral artistic creed that "style was all, and content nothing" which adorned the courts of the Tyrants. In all cases, the idea of an objective moral code was despised and rejected. Even the encroaching religion of Rabarrieh (the Southern Empire), which was one of tyranny and the belief in the superiority of the end over the means, was part of this overall "Zeitgeist".
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